Tony Hill’s Dog Bill Ruffed Up in Senate Committee
Forget about budget cuts, tax breaks and overhauling Medicaid.
The legislation drawing perhaps the most lobbying attention so far this session debuted Thursday when Sen. Tony Hill’s proposal to give cities and counties more authority to ban dangerous dogs came up in a committee. The measure was approved 9-2 by Senate Community Affairs, but not before a long line of dog advocates sought to curb the legislation.
Most feared it would lead to specific local bans on pit bulls. And most said such sanctions would prove unnecessary and impossible to enforce.
“It’s discriminating against a specific breed,” said Connie Brooks of St. Petersburg, representing the Tampa Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). “It’s not a bad breed. And how do we start classifying which dogs are pit bulls?”
Ernie Sims, of Tallahassee, father of the Detroit Lions linebacker of the same name, said he’s owned a pit bull for more than seven years and that the dog is very gentle. He said the most troublesome pet he owns is a three-legged Jack Russell terrier.
“It’s all about being a good pet owner,” Sims said in opposition to the bill.
While the legislation (SB 1276) was amended by Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, to prohibit local governments from imposing regulations on specific breeds, Hill acknowledged that the proposal’s original intent was directed at pit bulls.
Current state law, enacted in 1990, allows local governments to take action against dangerous dogs after a complaint is made and served on the owner, who can appeal the classification to county court. Afterward, the owner may be required to register the dog with local animal control and, depending on the severity of the dog’s actions, it may be ordered impounded or even destroyed.
The law prohibits regulations by breed, although Miami-Dade County and several municipalities there were allowed to retain restrictions already in place on pit bulls. Florida is among only 12 states that prohibit breed-specific regulations.
Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, sponsor of similar legislation (HB 543) told the committee a woman in his district is forced to walk with a stick or baseball bat in fear of neighborhood pit bulls.
Sen. Rudy Garcia, R-Hialeah, told Thurston he should tell the woman about “dog deterent” spray, similar to that issued to postal delivery workers.
“I’m not familiar with that,” Thurston replied. “But she’s been using a Louisville Slugger.”
Hill’s legislation is scheduled for two more committee stops in the Senate.