Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Florida's Animal Rights ranking -- How we can make it better

Florida has lots of dog-friendly beaches, parks, restaurants and even spas. But we could be more pet-friendly when it comes to our laws.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund released its annual state rankings earlier this month. Florida is in the top tier at number 19, at the bottom of the top tier. Not bad -- but it could be better.

And it wouldn't take much to do either.

The state with the best animal protection laws is Illinois, the worst is Kentucky.
Click on the map to see how your state ranked.
Here are the 15 categories used to determine the rankings:
  1. General prohibitions 
  2. Penalties 
  3. Exemptions 
  4. Mental health evaluations & counseling 
  5. Protective orders 
  6. Cost mitigation & recovery
  7. Seizure/impoundment 
  8. Forfeiture and post‐conviction possession 
  9. Non‐animal agency reporting of suspected animal cruelty 
  10. Veterinarian reporting of suspected animal cruelty 
  11. Law enforcement policies 
  12. Sexual assault 
  13. Fighting 
  14. Offender registration 
  15. “Ag gag” legislation
What Florida does right

 Lora Dunn, one of the analysts at Animal Legal Defense Fund, says Florida has a lot of things going for it.

"Florida does have a felony provision for cruelty, for neglect and for animal fighting," Dunn said.  "And Florida also has mandatory mental health evaluations for convicted abusers."

Florida also has provisions that allow a vet to report an animal who is abused or neglected, and Florida does not have what is called an "Ag Gag" rule, which bans whistleblowers from reporting animal abuses at farms.

Sexual assault of animals is also a crime in Florida. But it's only a misdemeanor. ALDF says it would be better as a felony.

Where Florida Can Improve

Dunn offers some easy changes Florida can make.

"We could make it mandatory in Florida that victims cannot return to their abusers after their convictions," Dunn said. "Currently, even when someone is convicted of abusing their dog, they can regain possession of their pet after completing their sentence. We would like a mandatory provision."

ALDF would also like to make it mandatory that vets report possible abuse or neglect.

"Florida could also improve by making future ownership of animals being banned to convicted abusers," Dunn said. "That ban could be discretionary in terms of its length."

ALDF would also like Florida to make it so that abusers have to pay back shelters who take care of their pets while they are in their care. ALDF also wants Florida to increase the penalties for orders.

Another issue that ALDF would like to see changed is regarding court orders. They want animals to be included when domestic abuse victims go to get court orders. 

What You Can Do

The Florida Legislative session starts in March. Florida's lawmakers only pass new laws during the 90 day session. So far, there are no animal rights laws.

My Florida House.com is the place to find out who your Florida House lawmaker is. Florida Senate.com  is where you can find your Florida Senator.

ASPCA has a whole section on how to lobby your lawmakers. Check out their advocacy center to find out what you can do. 

And if you don't live in Florida, you can find out your own state's ranking and how to make it better. Just go to ALDF and read the report.


  1. Hmmm, I agree that we need to do better in the areas listed above. I do not believe for one moment that an abused animal should go back to the abuser...ever! I also think the abuser should be banned from EVER having another pet. I hope your post will get people talking...and advocating to their reps and senators...no matter what state they live in.

    Great post!

    1. I had no idea that was a thing. It's ridiculous to me.

      I tweeted the story to a bunch of state lawmakers this morning. I'm going to tweet a bunch more tomorrow. I may also make some phone calls.

  2. Thank you for sharing this important info - change often starts close to home, and it's extremely important for people to realize what's going on in their own state. I hope this post will inspire people to take a look at their states to see what needs improvement.

    I just clicked over to look at the report, and was pleasantly surprised to see my state in the Top Tier, although it too has some things to work on. I have to admit, I also found it interesting that the Best and Worst state are next to each other on the map. It's amazing how different things can be even in the same region (and here's hoping Illinois can rub off on Kentucky).

    Team BtC4A

    1. Thanks AJ. I myself was pleasantly surprised to find Florida a top-tier state. A big reason we are placed so high is for our animal fighting laws.

  3. Great post. I had seen the ALDF Map on my cell phone while at work, but by the time I could read it I had lost it, so I am really glad you shared this and the rankings. I noticed that my own state, Minnesota, was number 14. Not much above Florida. I think maybe strengthening our puppy mill laws and animal cruelty laws would help us.

    I did not know that Florida did not have protection for abuse victims and their pets. What a shame.

    Thank you for sharing some really great information for Blog the Change!
    Mel Freer
    Team BTC

    1. We are still trying to work out protecting domestic abuse victims! We've had so many murder suicides as the result of violence. And really messy ones where innocent bystanders get hurt.

      I've been told by the CEO of my local shelter that it's a "complicated issue."

  4. This is a great look at how your state ranks and how to improve. Awesome post! I just came from traveling in Jacksonville, and was really impressed with how pet friendly the city seemed to be. With residents like you, I'm sure there will be improvements soon that we as a country can all look to for example.


    1. I hope so. I am hoping to talk to some local lawmakers. It's tough in Florida -- you need to figure out who the right person to go through is. And some of our lawmakers reject things and block things for the dumbest reasons. I remember when they tried to pass that law about having sex with animals, and how many people just thought it was stupid. Yes, it's dumb that we need to pass a law, but it's the only way to get these people out of the general public because they are sick!

  5. I hail from ILlinois - another of the top tier states, so I can relate on the feelings of both a sense of pride mixed with a bit of angst. You do a terrific job here of laying out the positive and negative points, and how residents can help enact change for improvement.

    Thank you for blogging the change for animals!
    Kim Thomas
    Team BtC4A

  6. Hi Christine - Thanks for participating the Blog the Change Day and for sharing the ALDF state rankings. I think it's important to remember the old saying "Think Globally, Act Locally" applies to animal advocacy too! One of the most important things we can do as animal advocates is to stay informed about possible changes in the law and let our legislators know where we stand on the issues. Thanks again!

    Vicki Cook
    Team BTC4A

    1. Thanks Vicki -- yeah, I do hope it leads to more changes in Florida. We still have a couple of months before the start of the session.


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