Florida bill would make it illegal for owners to abandon dogs outside in hurricanes

Image: Massive Hurricane Irma Bears Down On Florida
Having trouble finding a hotel room, members of the Watson family, of St. Petersburg, debates a passing motorist's offer to take in their dogs as they wait on the side of the road and weigh their options while attempting to evacuate the area ahead of, Hur Copyright Brian Blanco Getty Images file
By Doha Madani with NBC News U.S. News
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Stories about animals abandoned during natural disasters drew widespread attention in the last few years as hurricanes slammed the U.S.

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A new bill in the Florida Senate seeks to criminally charge owners who leave their dogs tied up outside during manmade and natural disasters.

Florida SB 1738 would charge owners who abandon their dogs outside in events such as hurricanes or tornados with animal cruelty, a first-degree misdemeanor. The charge is punishable by a possible fine of up to $5,000.

The bill, which was introduced at the beginning of the month, passed in the state's Senate Agriculture Committee with no opposition on Monday.

If passed, the bill would go into effect on July 1, a month after the beginning of hurricane season.

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Jonathan Drake
Panicked dogs that were left caged by an owner are rescued by volunteer Ryan Nichols in Leland, North Carolina, on Sept. 16, 2018.Jonathan Drake

Stories about animals abandoned during natural disasters drew widespread attention in the last few years as hurricanes rocked the country.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reported nearly 600animals were displaced in Bay County, Florida, last year when Hurricane Michael hit.

About 50 pets were rescued after being tied up outside in Palm Beach County when Hurricane Irma headed to the state in 2017, according to NBC affiliate station WPTV.

Many counties — including Sarasota and Palm Beach — already "prohibit animals from being tethered in extreme weather, including but not limited to hurricanes, tropical storm, or tornadoes, according to NBC-affiliate station WFLA.

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