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On October 1, 2018, a new law goes into effect changing the penalties for cruelty to animals.  Section 828.12 (6) of Florida Statutes states that a person convicted of animal cruelty laws can result in the court ordering to stop them from having custody and control over any animal, even for short periods of time.

The new law resulted from the death of a nine month lab puppy named Ponce, who was beaten to death by his owner for making a mess in the house. The puppy’s death was brought to the attention of police when a neighbor called to report that he could hear his neighbor beating his dog. Police arrived to find Ponce chained up and dying outside, with his skull and multiple teeth crushed. Travis Archer was arrested and charged with aggravated animal assault, a third degree felony.

At the end of July, the judge in Mr. Archer’s case threw out part of the evidence introduced by prosecutors. The police conducted a search of the property without a warrant, relying on the exception allowing officers to enter due to exigent emergency circumstances. That exception did not apply, as pets in Florida are still considered chattels, or items of property under the law. Since Mr. Archer initially did not consent to a search of the home, instead being told by the officer that probable cause existed to check on the dog’s safety, and that if he did not allow them in, the officer would resort to an alternative route which would not end well for Mr. Archer. Mr. Archer then let the police in, which led to the discovery of the dog. As a result of the judge partially granting the defense’s motion to suppress, evidence regarding the dog’s body, injuries it suffered and the cause of death are inadmissible at trial.

The new law grants judges the discretion to stop abusers from having any contact with animals during the course of their probation, including random home checks by animal control officers to make sure offenders are in compliance. It also creates harsher penalties for animal abuse, including sentencing to prison time, if convicted. Prior to the law’s passage, those convicted were only subject to a fine or probation. Thus, for those who have been convicted of animal abuse under the law, the judge can now prevent them from owning animals.