Welcome to our WAR ROOM. This is where to go to battle
All of your weapons are here for you to write, call, or visit your legislators.
- • THE ACTUAL BILLS & ORDINANCES
- • TALKING POINTS FOR YOUR LETTERS
- – Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)
- – Mandatory Spay/Neuter (MSN)
- • HOW TO WORD THEM DIPLOMATICALLY
- • YOUR LEGISLATORS' NAMES, ADDRESSES, & EMAIL ADDIES
- • LETTERS TO NEWSPAPER EDITORS & OTHER MEDIA
- • Our Lobbyists
STATE OF FLORIDA
LEGISLATIVE BILLS &
COUNTY/LOCAL PROPOSED ORDINANCES
County & Local Proposed Ordinances
- – Record Keeping for Animal Shelters
- – Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)
- – Mandatory Spay/Neuter (MSN)
Record Keeping for Animal Shelters
Support SB 674/HB 997 Requiring Record Keeping for Shelter
Maintaining Specific Records Makes Good Decisions Easier
Please support SB 674 / HB 997, duplicate bills which will foster transparency in the operation of animal shelters operating in Florida. The National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) and NAIA Trust support these bills, that requires animal shelters and animal control agencies to gather and publish records of the intake and disposition of the animals they handle. Please read NAIA's letter of support here.
This bill is critically important because shelter and rescue dogs make up a large number of the dogs being transferred in the pet marketplace today. They outnumber dogs from all other sources and yet the shelters and rescues that sell them operate without any oversight. Breeders placing 20 dogs or more are labeled pet dealers under Florida law, yet shelters placing hundreds of animals a year are subject to little if any regulation, and do not operate transparently.
This bill amends S.823.15, F.S. to require each agency to maintain specified records. These records will provide a degree of transparency to the pet supply chain operating in shelters and rescues and a sound basis for decision making on the part of shelter officials. Until a problem is defined it is very hard to solve it. This data will help everyone involved in the pet marketplace from shelter workers to consumers, public health officials and lawmakers. Please write your legislator today and ask him or her to support this very responsible legislation. This bill is very modest in its scope so that it won't cause undue hardship for shelters. Moreover, it's important to understand that many shelters already collect the data sought by this bill and some of them publish their data already.
This bill calls on the others to likewise collect and make their data available to the public. Due to the sheer number of dogs being transported in and out of shelters today, some from distant states and even from foreign countries, and due to the fly-by-night nature of some of the newer shelters, this reporting bill makes sense. While we believe that most shelters and rescues operate responsibly and serve the public good, the black sheep in the shelter industry are fostering animal welfare problems and consumer fraud, and their unregulated operations threaten public health. Please read our letter above and the following references to get ideas for your own note of support for SB674.
Article mentioning imported dog carrying rabies. Please read the footnotes for additional examples.
Protect Your Pets! Join NAIA Trust today!
BREED SPECIFIC PROHIBITION IS IT NEEDED?
Does current law preserve the rights of all the people to own the breed of dog they prefer? Yes !
Does Current law protect the public from aggressive/vicious dogs? Yes !
Does current law provide form prosecution of dog owners who fail to properly restrain their dogs? Yes!
Does current law permit local governments to pass ordinances that restrict breeding and handling of certain breeds of dogs? Yes !
Does current law promote consistent cost effective and enforceable local control of all breeds of dogs? Yes !
THEN WHY CHANGE CURRENT LAW?
No change in law is needed. What is needed is for local governments to hire and train staff to enforce current laws and ordinances. Another layer of laws any bureaucracy will not help.
We strongly oppose any breed-specific legislation. We support laws that establish a fair process by which specific dogs are identified as "dangerous" based on stated, measurable actions and impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners. A dog should not be deemed "dangerous" simply based on a specific breed or phenotypic class.
Punish the Deed, Not the Breed! We believe that a dog should be judged by its deeds, not its breed. We are dedicated to the passage of reasonable, enforceable, non-discriminatory laws to govern the ownership of dogs.
Unfortunately, some legislators believe they can protect their communities by imposing laws that restrict or completely ban dogs based on breed alone, with little or no consideration of well-mannered canines. AKC knows there are better, more effective alternatives.
Why Breed-Specific Legislation Doesn't Work
We have all heard the heartbreaking stories: A child brutally attacked by a dog. A beloved family pet or a farmer’s livestock killed or injured by a stray dog. Such stories are far too common, and we all agree that something must be done to protect our children, our property, and our communities at large from dangerous animals.
When faced with this dilemma, many state and local governments turn to breed-specific legislation (BSL) as a possible solution. Breed-specific legislation, however, creates extra burdens on the government and dog owners but doesn’t solve the underlying problem — irresponsible ownership and the threat to the community. The American Kennel Club agrees that communities must be protected. This is exactly why we oppose breed-specific legislation.
Breed-specific legislation is any bill that seeks to ban or place severe restrictions on a particular breed of dog or dogs with certain physical characteristics. Like racial profiling for dogs, this legislation unfairly penalizes good citizens without holding those responsible for the problem (the owners of dangerous dogs) accountable for it.
Banning a specific breed will not stop other dogs from attacking someone in the community. What happens if a dog of a different breed harms someone? If you follow the logic of BSL, that dog’s breed is then added to a list of banned breeds. Local governments are left continuing to add to a list of forbidden breeds, and animal control officers are forced to become dog experts in order to identify the breeds.
Breed-specific laws also often lead to increased costs to the community, as many owners abandon their household pets at local shelters because of their inability to comply with the strict regulations in these laws. Many of these dogs end up being euthanized at the shelters at the taxpayer’s expense.
BSL punishes responsible dog owners who choose to own a specific breed. Many owners of the targeted breeds are extremely responsible and their dogs are well-mannered, much-loved family pets. Additionally, many of the targeted breeds serve individuals and their communities as therapy dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, police/military working dogs, and service dogs for the disabled.
The AKC takes the position of deed not breed when dealing with the issue of dangerous dogs. The real problem is not the breed of dog, but its irresponsible owner. We support laws that address this issue. These laws should include provisions such as establishing a fair process by which specific dogs (regardless of breed) are identified as “dangerous” based on specific, measurable actions. Animal control laws should also impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners and establish a well-defined method for dealing with dogs that are proven to be dangerous. The AKC also believes that, if necessary, some dogs proven to be “dangerous” may need to be humanely destroyed.
If a community truly wants to fix the problem of dangerous dogs, then it needs to abandon the idea of breed-specific legislation. Time and time again, communities that have enacted BSL get unenforceable and costly laws, but no solution to the problem. Addressing the issue of irresponsible ownership is a much more effective way of addressing animal control.
– Jennifer Clark, AKC Government Relations Administrator
We strongly support breed neutral laws that target irresponsible owners rather than any specific breed of dog.
We oppose breed specific legislation, which targets the breed and not the deed. Irresponsibility of the owner is the primary cause of most dog bites and dogs running at large. Legislation to curb these problems is already in place in the majority of municipalities; however, enforcement is lax. With increased enforcement, existing laws relating to proper restraint and confinement of dogs would dramatically cut down on the majority of dog complaints. Communities should enforce the laws already on the books instead of turning to breed specific legislation (BSL).
The History of BSL
The first breed-specific laws were implemented in the 1980s. Over twenty years of regulation of so-called "dangerous breeds" should have resulted in a dramatic decrease in dog complaints and bites. Instead, research has shown that BSL has not caused a significant reduction in the number of dog bites in communities where it has been implemented.
The American Veterinary Medical Association Task Force conducted a research project attempting to identify whether a specific breed or breeds were responsible for a majority of dog bites. They concluded that it was not possible to calculate bite rates for particular breeds, or to compare bite rates between breeds, for several reasons. The breed of a biting dog is frequently unknown or misreported, and mixed breed dogs are often reported as purebreds. Actual numbers of dog bites within a given community are difficult to obtain, especially in the case of minor bites that do not require medical treatment (which are probably the most common types of bites that occur). Additionally, the number of dogs of a particular breed that exist in a community is difficult to ascertain, since many dogs are unlicensed. (American Veterinary Medical Association Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions, A community approach to dog bite prevention, JAVMA, Vol 218, No. 11, June 1, 2001).
The American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, Doberman, and German Shepherd Dog are some of the breeds most commonly targeted by breed-specific laws. These breeds simply are not inherently dangerous or aggressive towards people, as evidenced by the fact that many of them have lived as peaceful companions and family members for hundreds of years. Rather, these breeds are highly popular with responsible and irresponsible owners alike, due to their strength, agility, courage, and willingness to please their owners. Whether a dog's physical abilities and desire to please are used for good or evil is entirely up to the dog's owner.
There are many pitfalls for communities trying to enforce breed-specific laws:
1. Breed identification is subjective. Animal control officers are not sufficiently trained to recognize the restricted or banned breed(s). Even animal professionals, including breeders, judges and veterinarians, cannot always tell the specific breed(s) of origin of many pure or mixed breeds by sight. Breed identification of random-bred or non-pedigreed dogs is an educated guess at best. The physical characteristics that are often used to describe the generic "pit bull" or "pit bull mix" could easily describe as many as two dozen breeds and their mixes.
2. Without knowing the actual number of dogs of each breed that reside in a community, it is impossible to determine whether an individual breed is responsible for a disproportionate percentage of bites. While a more popular breed may prove to be responsible for a larger overall number of bites than a rare breed, this in no way indicates that an individual member of that breed is more likely to bite than a dog of any other breed. BSL can also create a false sense of security by implying that dogs not named on the list of banned or restricted breeds are inherently harmless.
3. Breed-specific laws do not target the irresponsible owner. They target the owner’s property (the dog), thus removing the blame from the person responsible for the actions of the dog.
4. The cost of enforcing, maintaining and fighting the legality of these laws becomes astronomical to some communities that are ill-able to afford to waste taxpayers monies on legislation that does not succeed in protecting the community from dog attacks.
Alternatives to BSL
1. Develop Advisory Committees, including but not restricted to veterinarians, dog trainers, local breed clubs, obedience training clubs, responsible breeders, pet rescue organizations, etc., that can collect data and collectively analyze the problems of the community as they relate to dangerous dogs.
2. Define terms to be used as applied to dangerous dogs. Educate everyone that will be involved with the enforcement of the law, of the importance of understanding these terms in the present law as it stands.
3. Enforcement of the dangerous dog laws already in the law books. This may mean the hiring of additional personnel for enforcement but in the end will be less expensive.
4. React to complaints of dangerous dogs promptly and hold the owners accountable with stringent guidelines.
5. Educate the public on the importance of the socialization and training of family pets. Organize local breed clubs, veterinarians, dog trainers, humane societies, etc. to give educational seminars and free or low-cost community-sponsored training classes.
6. Use the country-wide promotion of AKC’s Responsible Dog Owner Days to have law enforcement and local animal authorities join together to educate the public on what it means to be a responsible owner and what will happen to owners who choose to ignore the laws on record (leash laws, proper confinement, licensing, etc.).
7. Encourage the local shelter to develop personal relationships with breeders, rescue groups, and breed clubs to help identify breeds of dogs and to determine whether a dog is truly dangerous or simply has an irresponsible owner. Allow these same organizations to “rescue” the dogs that can be rehabilitated and adopted to responsible owners.
8. Once a dog has been determined to be dangerous, apply the law to the fullest and prosecute the irresponsible owners for the actions of their personal property.
In general, the following types of dogs may represent a higher bite risk:
-Dogs of any breed that are not properly socialized or obedience trained
-Dogs of any breed that are not properly confined or are allowed to run at large
-Dogs of any breed that are encouraged to be aggressive by irresponsible owners
-Dogs of any breed that are protecting their perceived property (e.g., yards, sidewalks, vehicles) from strangers
It is neither reasonable nor responsible to identify a dog’s breed as the cause of a bite. Until the root causes of dog bites are identified and addressed within a community, not only will BSL not work, but dangerous dog laws will not be effective.
Individual dogs of any breed may bite, for reasons unrelated to their breed. Do not make harmless family pets and their owners pay for the actions of others simply because the dogs may share some physical resemblance. Instead, target the irresponsible owners, and hold them financially and physically responsible for the actions of their personal property according to the law.
Why Mandatory Spay/Neuter Is Not A Solution
The Purebred Dog Fancy Is Concerned About This Issue
No group could be more concerned about the problems irresponsible dog owners, irresponsible breeding, and inadequate animal control can cause a community than the purebred dog fancy. The dog fancy’s goal is non-discriminatory, fair, effective and enforceable legislation that addresses the pertinent animal issues in the community.
Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws Are Not An Effective Way To Solve Animal Control Problems
· Mandatory spay/neuter is an ineffective solution to animal control problems because it fails to address the heart of the issue—irresponsible ownership. Mandatory spay/neuter laws are extremely difficult to enforce and can be evaded by irresponsible animal owners by not licensing their pets. More regulations increase the workload of already financially strained animal control offices, making it even more difficult for them to perform their duties.
· National research organizations have reported that the majority of unwanted dogs in the United States come from owners who are unable or unwilling to train, socialize and care for their dog. The American Kennel Club also encourages pet owners to spay or neuter their dogs if they do not want to participate in AKC conformation events or engage in responsible breeding programs.
Mandatory Spay/Neuter Proposals Are Unfair To Responsible Dog Owners And Breeders
· Responsible owners should be allowed to use their own discretion in determining whether to alter their animals, spay/neuter requirements target all owners regardless of their actions. These breeders make a serious commitment to their animals, working hard to raise healthy, well cared for dogs and work to ensure that these puppies are placed with responsible owners.
· Spaying and neutering is a surgical procedure that may not be right for all animals. A licensed veterinarian should perform these procedures only after consultation with the owner and a thorough physical examination.
A Better Solution is Available
· Strongly enforced animal control laws (such as leash laws), and increased public education efforts are better ways to address the issue of irresponsible dog ownership.
· A public education campaign would help teach community residents about how to properly care for their pets, as well as the need to be a responsible pet owner. AKC has free materials available on issues such as housebreaking, obedience training, excessive barking and daily care. The AKC and our local clubs would be pleased to work with schools, community organizations and local governments to distribute this information and the message of responsible dog ownership to the public.
The Purebred Dog Fancy And The AKC Are Valuable Resources
The purebred dog fancy is extremely interested in developing fair and effective animal control laws, as well as bolstering public education efforts to promote responsible dog ownership. To help achieve these goals, the fancy will assist the community by serving on animal control advisory boards to monitor problems and help develop reasonable solutions, and volunteering time and resources to help start or improve public education campaigns to teach responsible dog ownership.
AKC’s Canine Legislation and Public Education departments can also assist communities. The Canine Legislation department offers sample legislation and helps develop or improve animal control laws. The Public Education department provides communities free materials and assistance in conducting responsible dog ownership campaigns.
For more information, or to request specific materials, please contact the American Kennel Club's Canine Legislation Department, telephone 919-816-3720, email firstname.lastname@example.org
• We strongly support voluntary, low-cost, or free non-government controlled, spay/neuter programs for companion animals, and we encourage all pet owners who do not intend to breed or show their animals to spay or neuter their dogs.
• Mandatory spay/neuter programs have been found to be ineffective, difficult and expensive to enforce, and disproportionately affect only the most responsible pet owners and ethical breeders, without impacting irresponsible breeders.
• Mandatory spay/neuter programs result in the loss of funding for many spay/neuter programs and do not result in a reduction in the number of strays and unwanted dogs.
• Primary examples of the failure of mandatory spay and neuter legislation include tLos Angeles, San Antonio, and Louisville.
• In Los Angeles, it has been found that enforcement of the law was never budgeted, and is unlikely to be, as the expense outweighs the benefits of enforcement. The number of animals being turned into the LA Animal Shelters has sky-rocketed due to citizens' fear of being fined, and the number of animals being destroyed has gone up proportionately. The law is headed for failure and many animals have given their lives unnecessarily because a few people who enacted a law instead of educating the public thought this was the answer to a problem. John Yates, American Sporting Dog Alliance, recently reported: “The Los Angeles program has been virtually bankrupted in only six months, and the ordinance hasn't even taken effect yet, according to the audit report.”
• In San Antonio, many people who do not have the money to spay and neuter are abandoning their pets in the streets and at shelters. The number of adoptions has dropped dramatically, and again many animals are giving their lives because of a law that was supposed to save them. Again, education about spaying and neutering, plus programs to promote low-cost spay and neuter services, would have saved many animals.
• Louisville has also followed the way of Los Angeles and San Antonio, with the killing of pets up, adoptions down, and income shrinking to zero.
• Mandatory spay and neuter laws do not stop the unwanted breeding of animals. This problem is caused by people who are either not aware of low-cost spay and neuter programs, or couldn't care less about the laws. Responsible breeders promote spaying and neutering of animals that they breed and sell. They follow the laws and are educated and educate the public. Yet they are the ones that are punished, as the majority of them are also the law-abiding citizens.
Contact: Alison Tyler, ADOA Legislative Chair www.adoa.org
HOW TO WORD YOUR LETTERS DIPLOMATICALLY
9 Tips For Expressing Differences of Opinion in the Public Policy Arena
It's easy to get frustrated when your lawmakers seem to be doing the exact opposite of what you'd like them to do, or when another interest group is supporting legislation which works directly against you interests and beliefs.
At first glance, their opinions may appear groundless or misinformed. But, while you may not always agree with all proposals for the policies governing you, the following tips may help you handle these disagreements more productively and, ultimately, gain respect for your opinions or issues of canine legislation.
Try to remember:
1. Your lawmakers are trying to do the right thing. They just may not have the same base of knowledge or expertise about dogs that you do. Instead of chastising them, try educating them. If your facts are convincing, you may persuade your lawmaker that your way is the right way.
2. Laws are proposed and passed to solve problems. By the time a law gets proposed, the lawmaker has already been convinced that the problem exists. At this point, it may be too late to convince your lawmaker to do nothing, or that there really is not a "problem" at all. Instead, try suggesting a different "solution" to the problem. Your approach doesn't even have to involve a law -- for example, education is a good way to address problems involving irresponsible dog ownership.
3. If you want a solution that does not involve a new law, be prepared to help. After all, if the government isn't going to solve the problem, someone else will have to. And who better than you -- or your club -- to deal with an issue that you know so much about, and to make sure things are done your way? You can begin these volunteer services while the proposal is still under consideration. Such initiative will convince your lawmakers that (a) you are serious about your offer to help, and (b) the job will actually get done.
4. Be sure to understand the proposal. It's never safe to assume that all proposals which are not in the best interests of dog fanciers are the same, nor is it safe to assume that what you read in your newspaper is an accurate description of the law. Even similar types of legislation often have different wording which makes them very different when enacted.
Don't just tell your government that their proposal won't work -- tell them what will. You need to know what your dealing with, because without all the facts, it's hard to make a convincing argument. Having a specific understanding of the reasons for and content of the proposal will help you to put together a rational, complete response to it. Reading the proposal and knowing the details will also alert you to the issues that your opposition most wants to address, which may help you come up with some more acceptable alternative solutions.
5. Rudeness never wins respect. Listen carefully and respectfully to all speakers during public meetings. Don't let bad manners undermine your credibility.
6. Never raise your voice or lose your cool. No one wants to listen to someone rant and rave, no matter how good their ideas may be.
7. Avoid threats. Threats immediately put people on the defensive and close their minds to what you are saying. To get your opinions heard and respected, you want to get people to listen to you.
8. Always back up your positions with facts. When you disagree, explain why. For example: "I know some people think that breeders only breed their dogs to make money and get rich, but my experiences as a breeder and show judge of 15 years have shown me that this is most often not the case. Responsible breeders breed to the standard and for the betterment of the breed, and are not motivated solely by profit."
9. Keep your focus on the ideas, and not on the people presenting them. Personality criticisms appear petty or vindictive to the casual observer, and can damage your own credibility as much as your target's. Be careful not to let personal attacks distract from the merits of your position.
Remember, actions speak louder than words.
FLORIDA LEGISLATURE REPRESENTATIVES & SENATORS
The names and contact information for the members of the Florida House of Representatives and Senate are linked below in this Section. If you are writing as an individual constituent, write to the House member and Senate member representing your Districts. If you are writing on behalf of your club, write to all of the House and Senate members representing the Districts of your club's regional territory.
When you write to your legislators about a pending bill, you also should send copies of the letters to the members of the House and Senate committees where the bill has been referred for consideration. The House Bills and Senate Bills listed at the top of this page have been referred to the committees listed opposite the bills' titles above. The names, addresses and telecopier numbers of each committee's members are available on the webpages hyperlinked to the committee names above. Email addies of some committees' members are listed below. This portion is under construction, and additional committees' email addies will be added in due course.
Florida House of Representatives Members: Alphabetically -- Search by Zip Code
Florida Senate Members: Alphabetically -- Search by Zip Code
From NAIA Trust:
Send letters, faxes, and emails directly to Florida newspapers and other media, using NAIA's CapWiz