A new Florida law allows judges to prohibit convicted animal abusers from owning horses or other pets in the future and makes it more likely that such individuals will serve time in prison.
Introduced last Fall by State Representatives Tom Leek and Jason Brodeur, HB 473, or “Ponce’s Law,” allows judges to bar anyone convicted of animal cruelty from owning an animal for a time determined by the court. It also increases a convicted person’s sentencing guidelines score for felony animal cruelty from Level 3 (16 points) to Level 5 (28 points), thus improving the chances of incarceration. Under current guidelines, 44 points results in an offender receiving prison time; judges who do not order incarceration must explain their departure from the guideline.
Kate MacFall, Florida state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said sentencing guidelines play a significant role in prosecuting animal cruelty cases.
“Law enforcement wants to do the right thing and giving prosecutors and judges more discretion in animal cruelty cases is important,” she said.
Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into law on March 23. It takes effect on July 1.