Lawmakers in Florida aim to make life rough for pet owners who abandon their dog before a natural disaster.
A new bill in the state senate, Bill 1738, prohibits owners from leaving a tied up dog alone after the National Weather Service has issued a warning about natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes.
The law would also apply during "man made" disasters, or other emergencies where evacuation orders have been issued.
The bill also gives veterinarians the power to confidentially report owners suspected of breaking the new rules.
Any owners caught leaving their pooch to fend for itself could face a $5,000 fine and first-degree animal cruelty charges that carry up to a year of prison time under the new law.
This video shows a pair of dogs being rescued from flooding during Hurricane Florence in 2018:
Rescued six dogs in Leland, NC, after the owner LEFT THEM locked in an outdoor cage that filled with flood water that was rapidly rising.— Marcus DiPaola (@marcusdipaola) September 16, 2018
We got them out, but by the time we left, the water was so high that they would have drowned. BRING YOUR PETS WITH YOU! #HurricaneFlorence pic.twitter.com/tRibGxCjXy
The bill, which is being reviewed in the state senate, will take effect this summer if it’s passed.
The proposal by lawmaker Joe Gruters has already passed the state’s Agricultural Committee with no opposition.
In the hearing, Gruters said that "numerous dogs" are left tethered outdoors during major disasters like hurricanes, including during 2017’s Hurricane Irma when "dozens" of dogs were left in the storm’s path as their owners evacuated.
Gruters told the Palm Beach Post his bill is meant to give dogs the same "fighting chance" their owners get in a crisis.
While abandoned cats and other pets are often rescued from homes during emergencies, the language of the bill only protects tethered dogs.
In certain Florida counties, it’s already illegal to leave a dog tethered while its owner is away from home, or to leave a dog tethered during an emergency.