Florida Seeks Harsher Penalties for Animal Abusers

Last week, Governor Rick Scott signed a multitude of bills into law, including one titled “Ponce’s Law”. The law, named for a puppy that was found beaten to death in a Ponce Inlet backyard, strengthens Florida’s existing animal cruelty laws.

Public outcry to the crime in Ponce Inlet was swift and relentless. Last May, protestors in Daytona Beach marched along North Ridgewood Ave., holding signs and shouting “Justice for Ponce!” They were seeking justice for the man who killed a 9-month old Labrador retriever, and gathered outside of the S. James Foxman Justice Center on the day of his scheduled arraignment.

SB 1576 (Ponce’s Law) takes into account many aspects of animal welfare. It requires more stringent policies for organizations that take in lost or stray animals to ensure the animals are returned to their owners quickly and reliably. It also allows courts to prohibit animal abuse offenders from owning or controlling animals, and upgrades the severity of certain animal cruelty offenses.

Penalties for Animal Cruelty

In the state of Florida, animal cruelty is considered a first-degree misdemeanor and aggravated animal cruelty a third-degree felony. The crime of animal cruelty occurs when someone treats an animal or animals in way that is inhumane. This includes: overdriving or overworking, depriving animals of basic needs such as food or water, or killing or harming an animal in an inhumane way. This crime can send you to prison for one year, and carry fines of up to $5,000. The crime of aggravated animal cruelty occurs when someone intentionally kills or tortures an animal, causing unnecessary pain and suffering. A third-degree felony, this crime is punishable by five years in prison, and fines of up to $10,000. If you have been charged with a crime related to animal cruelty, contact a skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney at Pallegar Law, P.A. to explore your options for defense.

Ponce’s Law

Under Ponce’s Law, those who are convicted of aggravated animal cruelty and are found to have knowingly and intentionally tortured or killed an animal must pay a minimum mandatory fine of $2,500. Offenders must also undergo counseling or complete an anger management program. A second conviction will require a minimum mandatory fine of $5,000 and a minimum mandatory sentence of 6 months. Multiple acts of animal cruelty can be charged separately, and those who commit animal cruelty to more than one animal can be charged for each animal. Under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code, the severity ranking for aggravated animal cruelty has been upgraded from 3 to 5. This puts the charge on par with robbery, insurance fraud, and selling cocaine.

The Humane Society has stated that the passage of Ponce’s law will prove that Florida takes animal cruelty crimes seriously. They are optimistic that because of the implementation of harsher penalties, the state will see fewer animal abuse cases. The Society hopes that one day, animal abuse charges will be classified as second-degree felonies.

Call Pallegar Law, P.A. For a Free Consultation

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime relating to animal abuse, contact an aggressive Tampa criminal defense attorney at Pallegar Law, P.A. Call 813-444-3912 for your free consultation.

For more information: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2018/1576/Amendment/176710/HTML

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