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Florida Bill Makes Chaining Dogs In 'Natural Disasters' A Crime. Senators Like It, But Want Clarity

gray and brown dog with chain leash lying on floor
Tra Nguyen

Under a bill moving through the Florida Senate, leaving a dog chained up outside during a natural disaster, like a hurricane, tropical storm or tornado warning, would be a first degree misdemeanor. It would be punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine of $5,000. The rule would also apply during a mandatory evacuation order.

Though the bill passed its first committee stop, the criminal justice panel had questions for its sponsor, Sarasota Republican Joe Gruters. Senator Jeff Brandes told Gruters the term ‘natural disaster’ needs to be further refined in the bill.

“It’s just so broad,” Brandes said. “We’re going to have people – half the time I don’t know when a tornado warning has been issued or not issued, and how would I possibly be able to get home and unchain the dog if I had a dog on a chain at the house.”

Gruters says he will continue to “work on” specifics in the bill’s language. Meanwhile, members of the Senate panel who passed it unanimously say they like they’re behind the idea. He says it will give all dogs a “fighting chance” to survive extreme weather events.

“The intent is, not only (to stop) tethering during a natural disaster, but it’s also unattended. So if you’re staying home and riding out the storm and your dog is outside tethered, you’d still be okay because your dog is still being attended to,” Gruters explained. “It’s when you hike out of town and leave the dog tethered, when they have no chance.”

The measure passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday. There is no companion legislation filed in the House yet.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.