Florida is a pretty horrible place to be an animal. That's due at least in part to the great conglomeration of weirdos and cretins here, of course, but stone-age animal cruelty laws have a lot to do with it as well. A few Florida senators have done their part by proposing bills that would go a long way in increasing animal welfare in this state. And one special lawmaker -- take a bow, Jim Norman -- is headed full speed in the opposite direction. Here are five 2012 bills every Florida animal lover should know about and their current status in the Florida Senate.
1. "Animal Abuse Registry," by New Port Richey Sen. Mike Fasano
This is probably the most radical bill of the bunch. Called "Dexter's Law," it would treat convicted animal abusers like sex offenders, making them re-register when they move and pay an annual administrative fee, or be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor.
Status: Awaiting vote.
2. "Pari-mutuel Wagering," by Delray Sen. Maria Sachs, Destin Sen. Don Gaetz, and Apalachicola Sen. Bill Montford
As illustrated in New Times' 2009 feature story on the subject, Florida's backwards gambling laws keep the brutal greyhound racing industry alive by requiring establishments to hold a certain amount of dog races in order to have slots and poker games. This bill would finally get rid of that requirement.
Status: Received a 6-4 favorable tally in last subcommittee vote.
3. "Shark Fins," by Bradenton Sen. Mike Bennett
To get shark fins-- an Asian delicacy served in soup -- fisherman slice off the appendage and throw the living animal back into the water to slowly die. Though U.S. vessels are banned from finning, foreign-registered vessels aren't banned. This law would have made Florida the fifth state -- after Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California -- to prohibit outright the possession, sale and distribution of shark fins.
Status: The bill was withdrawn from consideration on January 17.
4. "Animal Fighting or Baiting," by Miami Gardens Sen. Oscar Braynon and Sen. Montford
This might as well be titled the Michael Vick Bill. The wide-ranging law would increase penalties for staging or being a spectator for any animal fighting and baiting. It would criminalize the possession of animal fighting paraphernalia -- such as "slat mills, treadmills, cat mills, jennys, rape stands, spring poles, flirt poles, break sticks, supplements, drugs, or scales".
Status: Awaiting vote.
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5. "Agriculture," by Tampa Sen. Jim Norman
Probably the most backwards bill in the current legislature, the so-called "ag-gag" bill would have made it illegal to film animal abuse at farms and slaughterhouses. Norman openly admitted to sponsoring the bill at the behest of an egg farmer.
Status: After widespread derision, the bill was recently shot down by lawmakers.