Q: What can you tell us about animal cruelty laws in the State of Florida?
A: The state’s animal cruelty law most recently changed as a result of a case out of the 7th Judicial Circuit. Named for an animal victim, a dog named Ponce, the law is called “Ponce’s Law” and it went into effect on Oct. 1, 2019. Ponce’s Law makes the classification of aggravated animal abuse a higher level felony, which makes those convicted eligible for a state prison sentence. When Ponce was killed, allegedly by his owner, there was no prison time involved and that was the impetus for this law. Additionally, at a judge’s discretion, under Ponce’s Law the judge can impose the condition of a lifetime ban on pet ownership to the convicted felon.
Q: Can you clarify felony vs. misdemeanor animal cruelty?
A: Felony animal cruelty occurs when the abuse results in the death of the animal or extreme pain and suffering. Misdemeanor animal cruelty is anything else, including cases where people take on more than they can handle, either with animals that they cannot afford to completely care for or trying to shelter too many animals, which results in them not being able to adequately feed them or provide the proper veterinary care.
Q: Do you have any tips in this regard?
A: Some things to be aware of are not to take on more than you can fully handle. Also, do your research of what special needs or treatments might be required of the animal or particular breed you would like to get as a pet. Be prepared to take full care of any animals you take in. Finally, ask for help if you can’t do this. There are shelters and other resources to help you so that your animal remains safe and you are not charged with anything.
Q: Can you give us some information about the state’s dangerous dog statute?
A: Florida does have such a statute. If a dog harms another dog or a person, get it documented. After this first documentation, the dog is designated as a dangerous dog and if there are any other documented occurrences, the dog could be put down and the owner could be charged. Be sure to control your pets; it is possible to commit a crime by not properly controlling your pet. Pay attention to leash laws in your area and abide by them as well.