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Saturday, April 13, 2024

There is some misinformation circulating about the Florida Animal Rescue Act. Despite claims, Senate Bill 818/House Bill 597 does not force the transfer of "unwanted strays" to nonprofit animal rescue organizations.

The act simply requires that shelters maintain a registry of animal rescue groups that are willing to accept animals that would otherwise be killed; provides eligibility criteria for rescue groups wanting to be on the registry; provides criteria under which an animal control agency or animal shelter may reject an applicant for the registry or remove a participant from the registry; and provides reporting requirements.

Nowhere in the bill does it state that rescue groups must take animals from a shelter, nor does it state that shelters must give animals to any particular rescue group.

It simply mandates collaboration.

Instead of supporting common-sense legislation that will save lives, save taxpayer money and mandate private-public partnerships, some "opponents" are misrepresenting the bill's contents and purpose.

Here is why.

A statewide survey of rescue groups found that 63 percent of nonprofit rescue organizations have had at least one Florida state shelter refuse to work collaboratively with them, then turn around and kill the very animals the organizations were willing to save.

The most common reason given was shelters not having a policy of working with rescue groups or being openly hostile to doing so.

In addition, 45 percent of survey respondents said they are afraid to complain about inhumane conditions or practices at Florida shelters, because if they did complain, they would not be allowed to rescue animals.

And 81 percent of rescue groups that have tried to work with more than one shelter said different shelters have different rescue access policies, creating inefficiency and limiting the number of animals who can and should be saved.

Studies in other states show that when animal rescue laws are passed, lifesaving goes up.

In just one county in California, rescue transfers increased 4,000 a year when it passed a rescue access law.

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In fact, an analysis of that law found that sending animals to nonprofit animal rescue organizations rather than killing them saved the City and County of San Francisco $480,480 in publicly funded animal control costs.

It makes no sense for taxpayers to spend money to kill animals when rescue groups are willing and able to save them at private expense.

If passed, this legislation would set statewide standards for rescue group access and make it illegal for a shelter to kill an animal when a qualified nonprofit rescue organization is willing to save that animal.

Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joseph Abruzzo should be congratulated, and they should be supported for introducing this important, lifesaving legislation based on the best practices from around the country.

And if the animals could talk, that is exactly what they would say, too!

Bill LeFeuvre, J.D.

Director of Program Development

No Kill Nation Inc.

Deerfield Beach

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