In an effort to promote a more compassionate approach towards dog-related incidents, a prominent animal policy expert has called for lawmakers in Florida to reconsider a bill that could result in the destruction of aggressive dogs and legal consequences for their owners.
The bill, known as the Pam Rock Act, is named after Pamela Rock, a mail carrier from Putnam County who tragically lost her life at the age of 61 due to a dog attack in August 2022.
Introduced on December 13, 2023, the act is sponsored by Republican representatives Bobby Payne and Mike Beltran.
If passed, the bill proposes that any dangerous dog that attacks or bites a person or domestic animal without provocation may be put down, and the owner would be held legally responsible for their pet’s behavior.
Additionally, the bill seeks to establish a state-wide dangerous dog registry, requiring owners of such dogs to register their pets with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS).
According to the bill, “The Legislature recognizes that dangerous dogs pose an increasing threat to the safety and well-being of the people in our state due to unprovoked attacks causing harm to individuals and domestic animals.”
Expressing concerns about the bill, Professor Delcianna J. Winders, director of the Animal Law and Policy Institute at Vermont Law and Graduate School, argues that it may create a false sense of control and impose legal obligations on animals.
“I strongly urge the legislature to redefine ‘severe injury,’ as dogs held accountable under this law ultimately pay the ultimate price—their lives,”
Professor Winders stated.
The proposed definition states that a dog is considered a danger if it has aggressively bitten, attacked, endangered, or caused severe injury to a person on public or private property.
The bill defines “severe injury” as physical harm resulting in broken bones, multiple bites, or disfiguring lacerations requiring sutures or reconstructive surgery.
Professor Winders suggests that registration fees for owners should be reasonable, considering the potential significant costs that may arise from legal matters following a dog attack.
The bill also outlines civil penalties for owners if their dogs attack someone due to improper containment.
“Dangerous dog registries offer a breed-neutral alternative to discriminatory laws targeting specific breeds like pit bulls,”
Professor Winders explained.
A Florida-based animal welfare organization is currently reviewing the bill.
Sherry Silk, president of the Florida Association of Animal Welfare Organizations (FAAWO), stated that they are consulting with other state and national animal welfare organizations to ensure a comprehensive evaluation of HB 837 / SB 1156 before taking a stance.
Regarding the tragic incident that claimed Pamela Rock’s life while she was delivering mail, the owner of the dogs faced no charges as they had actively attempted to contain the animals, including fortifying a fence and trying to surrender them.
As reported by News4Jax in 2023, the Florida State Attorney’s Office decided not to press charges against the dog owner after they made two separate attempts to surrender the animals, with one instance occurring just ten days before the fatal attack.