Florida May Make It Illegal to Tether a Dog Outside During Hurricanes

Florida is finally taking steps toward offering better protection to companion animals during man-made and natural disasters.

Florida Senate Bill 1738 would charge people with animal cruelty if they restrain their dogs outside and leave them unattended during disasters, such as hurricanes or tornadoes. The violation would be a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine of up to $5,000.

The legislation defines its salient terms in this way:

  • Man-made disaster: “A situation in which a person has received notice from a local or governmental authority that an event attributed in part or entirely to human intent, error, or negligence, or involving the failure of a manmade system, which results in significant damage has occurred, is occurring, or may soon occur in the person’s vicinity”
  • Natural disaster: “A situation in which a hurricane, tropical storm, or tornado warning has been issued for a municipality or a county by the National Weather Service, or the municipality or county is under a mandatory or voluntary evacuation order”
  • Restraint: “A chain, rope, tether, leash, cable, or other device that attaches a dog to a stationary object or trolley system”

If passed, this law would take effect July 1, 2019 — right before the heart of hurricane season.

Unfortunately, some people don’t give much thought to what they would do with their pets if they have to evacuate quickly and unexpectedly. The bill’s sponsor — Florida Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota — said he decided to take action after seeing what happened to abandoned dogs after Hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Michael.

“We’ve seen these three hurricanes and seen numerous dogs left tethered to different things,” Gruters told The Tampa Bay Times. “We want to give dogs a fighting chance.”

People leave their animals behind for a variety of reasons. Many can’t find a hotel that will allow them to have a pet in their room. Most storm shelters don’t allow pets. Some evacuees can’t fit both their pets and their families into one vehicle. And of course some people don’t really consider pets to be part of the family, so they just leave them to fend for themselves.

None of these reasons is an excuse to leave an animal tethered outside during a disaster, but people do it anyway.

“First thing is always, ‘I love my dog, but it happened in the middle of the night, I wasn’t ready, I was scared, I wasn’t prepared, and I didn’t know what to do,’” Rick Yocum of the Manatee County Humane Society told MyNews13. “There are a million excuses, but none of them make sense.”

Gruters wants to be sure that no dog is left in the defenseless position of being tied up and unable to escape. After all, a tethered dog cannot outrun rising floodwaters, dodge a falling tree or forage for food and water.

This is not to say that Florida municipalities have completely ignored this problem. Collier, Fernandina Beach, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Miami, Martin, Miami-Dade, Mount Dora, Okaloosa, Palm Beach, Pembroke Park, Pinellas, Sarasota and St. Lucie counties currently have their own rules on the books that prohibit leaving dogs tied up outside during bad weather events.

This bill, however, would make such offenses a first-degree misdemeanor across the entire state — and it’s about time.

This an excellent first step, but the effort can’t stop here. Florida needs to make it illegal to abandon an animal in any way. Whether it’s during a storm, natural disaster or just because a jerk doesn’t want their dog or cat anymore, abandoning an animal to fend for itself is unthinkable cruelty. Criminalize it, and let’s start punishing people for endangering animal lives.

Other measures are needed, as well:

  • Hotels and motels should be required to accept pets when emergencies require evacuation. No, despite what you’ve heard, that’s not the law. Hotels and motels don’t have any legal obligation to allow animals inside, other than service animals.
  • More storm shelters should be established that will accept companion animals.

Yes, more needs to be done, but this first step is a good one.


Kudos to Florida Sen. Joe Gruters for sponsoring this bill. If you want to urge Florida lawmakers to pass this measure, please sign this petition. We’ll see that it gets to those who will be voting on the legislation. Florida’s dogs are counting on you to help make this legislation a reality.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition and use this handy guide to get started. You‘ll find Care2‘s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.


Photo credit: Getty Images


Cindy M. D
Cindy M. D19 days ago

This bill should cover any and all animals.

Debra Tate
Debra Tate22 days ago

I live in Florida and when we get hit with a hurricane my 4 legged kids go with me!

Pam Bruce
Pam Bruce27 days ago

Your pets are apart of your family. They need protection too during these massive storms. Do not forget them. They give you love so return that. Thanks.

joan silaco
joan silaco27 days ago

Why do people think that tethering an animal is going to save them from nature's harm?

Debra Tate
Debra Tate27 days ago


Nicky H

It's very good that Florida will make it illegal to tether a dog outside during hurricanes. I already said in my previous message that it should also apply for other weather conditions. But although this tethering is mostly the case with dogs, there are many other animals who are in the same situation. I know that in rural areas, small farmers tether their goats or sheep alongside a road to graze. But they are also trapped when suddenly the weather takes a bad turn. And what about the rabbits or Guinea pigs in small, outside cages... So, in fact, the bill should be for other animals as well as there are - regretfully - more victims than only dogs. Especially when the extreme weather conditions are followed up on radio, local television etc.. it must not be that difficult to arrange saving our animals nowadays.

Nicky H

NO dog should ever be tethered in any weather conditions 24/24 and 7/7. Not only during hurricanes, but at all times, viz. heavy rainfall, too hot & sunny weather, etc.. Dogs are "free" animals and should never be attached to poles or their shelter cabin, or whatever objects. Dogs must be able to run around, lay down when they want and not being forced to turn in rounds for a couple of meters only. They even have the risk to hang themselves... Or do you do that to your children as well ?? It's just the same you know. You can place your dog in a large "park" where he has water, food and a good shelter against the elements. But never hang him on a cord, steel cable, etc.. The animal has not even the possibility to run and escape from his bad situation. If the area is flooded, the dog could easily be drowned. Horrible !!

hELEN h28 days ago

No dog should be permanent tethered, petition signed

Melania P
Melania P28 days ago

What are they waiting for? Neanderthals!

Chris C
Chris C28 days ago

Thank you for sharing