The “Right to Pet” Bill Wasn’t an Extreme Measure

The “Right to Pet” Bill Wasn’t an Extreme Measure

Editorial: Careful what you sign. Petitions aren’t always what they seem

The Associated Press

Published: Saturday, September 27, 2013 at 3:30 a.m.

Last Modified: Friday, September 26, 2013 at 10:02 p.m.

When state Sen. Bertram Durel first proposed the bill that eventually became Florida’s “Right to Pet” law, it wasn’t an extreme measure. It was a bill that would allow people to have their own pets.

Back then, the idea of granting legal title to a pet was fairly novel. There weren’t a lot of pet-related bills in the Florida Legislature.

But by 2005 that idea became more popular as a political tool, and Durel, who represented a key area in Miami-Dade County, had his eye on becoming a state senator. So he started working on a bill allowing people to own a pet.

But once he tried to get a hearing on the legislation, the bill got bogged down.

“To give it a second life,” Durel said Thursday, “I had to get it more politically correct and make it more into a bill where you have the people in attendance, and they can see for themselves what happens when they lose the dogs.”

That was the start of the bill’s rocky journey.

It eventually survived legislative review, but by this summer when Gov. Rick Scott became involved it had received pushback from animal-rights supporters who wanted it to be even more extreme.

When the bill went to a public hearing a couple of weeks ago at the Capitol, all of the furor came up again. The “pet” in the bill’s title was switched to make it “veterinarian.” And there were changes to make it more palatable to the Legislature’s animal-rights advocates.

But not everyone who signed the pet petition was happy.

“If he could have said, ‘Your pet is a cow,’ it probably would have been a much less controversial bill

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