A Fleming Island lawmaker has filed legislation to provide representation in court for abused and neglected pets.
Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island, Rep. Lindsay Cross, D-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Berny Jacques, R-Seminole, filed the proposal (SB 272 and HB 297) for the 2024 legislative session, which will begin in January.
The bill 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 news release.
Under the proposal, appointed animal advocates would be allowed to aid in fact-finding, attend hearings and present recommendations to the court. Potential animal advocates would have to undergo training prior to being eligible for 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.
Jacques added, “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.”
The Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Legal Defense Fund have backed the measure.