Increased penalties for animal abusers to take effect in Florida

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Russell terriers named Dom, right, and Demi relax in the benching area during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Increased penalties for animal abusers will take effect later in 2018 under legislation signed by Governor Rick Scott.

In addition to a greater chance of going to jail, abusers could also be barred from having contact with animals.

The bill signed by the governor also includes new requirements for animal shelters in the state to take extra steps to locate owners of lost pets after hurricanes.

Ponce’s Law raises felony animal cruelty from a level three to a level five offense.

While the increase doesn’t guarantee an offender does time in prison, it makes it more likely if other charges are combined.

“It’s a predictor. People who commit animal cruelty are very, very likely to commit cruelty to violence to humans, children,” said Kate McFall, with the Humane Society. 

“In the coming years we will see even more and more momentum to perhaps make this a second degree felony.”

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