Florida Courts Ready to Add Some Teeth to Their Animal Abuse Cases

Mary Simpson
by Mary Simpson

The Court-Appointed Animal Advocate may be a thing in 2024.

Photo Credit: Reshetnikov_art / Shutterstock.com

While American states and Canadian provinces all have laws in place designed to protect animals from abuse, the state of Florida is deciding whether to take things one giant step further by introducing legal advocates for those furry clients who cannot speak for themselves.

Yes, just like it sounds, animals who have been neglected or abused will receive the full services of an actual court-appointed attorney who is dedicated to ensuring the dog or cat involved, really does have their proverbial “day in court”. It’s a premise that is similar to when a guardian is appointed by the courts to represent children and it speaks specifically to the welfare and custody of the animal.

Proposed by three Pinellas County officials, the goal of getting this bill passed is to help cut down on the time and costs associated with prosecuting the myriad cases of animal abuse in the area, including hoarding, puppy mills, and dog fighting to name just a few.

By assigning legal advocates including volunteer and/or retired attorneys as well as certified legal interns who are familiar with the state’s legal system, Senator Jennifer Bradley and Representatives Lindsay Cross, and Berny Jacques feel they can move this type of case through the system faster, more economically, and with much better outcomes.

Because this is new ground for many attorneys, those offering to step up to the plate would receive training specific to these types of cases. As court-appointed attorney, they would then be responsible for attending all hearings, researching the facts surrounding the case, and presenting recommendations that speak to how best to move forward. Further, understanding the support services available in the county is important, particularly in the case of animal hoarding where the ability to recommend helpful resources for the individual can mean being one step closer to preventing a recurrence.

The proposal that has already received backing from the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Legal Defense Fund is being put forward for voting in 2024.

Per Representative Jacques, “As a former prosecutor who has prosecuted animal cruelty cases, I strongly believe this legislation will provide prosecutors with the tools and assistance that they need to seek justice on these important cases.”

And with “justice” can also come a deterrent to others. If you choose to abuse or neglect your pets, know they may soon have the power to bring the wrath of the courts to your door.

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

Sharing space with three seriously judgy Schnoodles and a feline who prefers to be left alone. #LivingMyBestLife

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