MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — A proposed bill making its way through the Florida Senate would make it illegal to leave your dog leashed up outside during a hurricane or other natural disaster.

  • SB 1738 passed in Senate Agriculture Committee March 18
  • If passed, law would NOT penalize pet owners who simply abandoned dogs during storms
  • If passed would go into effect July 1
  • More Manatee County stories

Florida Senator Joe Gruters, the author of Senate Bill 1738, wants to make it a first-degree misdemeanor to leave a dog restrained or unattended outside during a serious weather event or natural disaster.

"What this bill says is that you just can't tie them down or tether them as you escape yourself, and the penalties if you do tie them down it can be punishable up to a misdemeanor and up to a $5,000 fine," Gruters explained. 

Gruters hopes the bill, if passed, will help address a situation that's becoming more and more common after storms: first responders not only rescuing people, but also abandoned animals.

"Every time we have a storm, yes, it's heartbreaking," said Rick Yocum with the Manatee County Humane Society.

Yocum said he's heard just about every excuse as to why someone would leave their animal behind.

"First thing is always, 'I love my dog, but it happened in the middle of the night, I wasn't ready, I was scared, I wasn't prepared, and I didn't know what to do,'" Yocum explained. "There are a million excuses, but none of them make sense."

  • The bill does have limitations. It would not penalize individuals who simply abandon their dog, for example. The proposed law's focus is restraining an animal so it cannot escape.

    Yocum believes it should never have to come to that.

    "You would be shocked how flexible public transportation would be to work with you during a storm," he said. "There are so many resources in Manatee and Sarasota County to reach out to."

    Yocum added that nonprofit agencies such as Turning Points go as far as offering free carriers for animals, and many shelters opened during weather events are pet friendly.

    "We want to give these dogs a fighting chance," he said.

    The bill passed in the Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday without opposition. If passed, it would go into effect on July 1.