Abused and neglected pets could get court-appointed representation under a measure filed for the 2024 legislative session.
The proposal (SB 272 and HB 297) by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island, Rep. Lindsay Cross, D-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Berny Jacques, R-Seminole, would authorize a volunteer attorney, certified emeritus attorney, or certified legal intern to be designated to act as an advocate in criminal cases of neglect or abuse involving a dog or cat.
The appointment would be similar to the court designation of a guardian ad litem involving children in court cases.
“These advocates will ensure an informed process and, especially in cases of hoarding, provide helpful resources for the judicial process,” Bradley said in a press release.
Under the proposal, appointed animal advocates could aid in fact-finding, attend hearings, and present recommendations to the court. Potential animal advocates would have to undergo training before being eligible for an appointment.
The proposal “will provide cost-saving tools to our courts and a trusted advocate to represent the interests of justice,” Cross said in the release.
“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,” Jacques added.
The Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Legal Defense Fund have backed the measure.