FORT MYERS, Fla. — A new Florida law is bringing controversy among Southwest Florida dog owners.
The state of Florida is showing love to what some consider a misunderstood breed.
“Just big teddy bears, that’s all they are," said Brooklyn Calvert, a SWFL dog owner who has experience with Pitbull-appearing breeds.
On October 1st, new Florida laws went into effect, including Senate Bill 942.
This act does not limit any local government or public housing authority from adopting an ordinance or a policy, respectively, to address the safety and welfare concerns caused by attacks on persons or domestic animals, placing further restrictions or additional requirements on owners of dogs that have bitten or attacked persons or domestic animals, or developing procedures and criteria for the implementation of this act, provided that no such regulation is specific to breed, weight, or size and that the provisions of this act are not lessened by such additional regulations or requirements.
The law now puts restrictions on local governments from regulating dogs based on their size, weight, or breed. This includes rejecting dogs from public housing based solely on these characteristics.
“The fact that we’re able to now have options for people instead of giving up their animals is just exactly what the humane society and animal welfare is about,” said Kristin Sampson, Operations Manager of the Gulf Coast Humane Society.
Sampson says the number one reason for surrenders in Southwest Florida has been housing restrictions.
“We have probably about 30 percent of those breeds that were previously not allowed in government housing in our shelters," said Sampson. "This will allow those people to keep those animals and allow space for animals to come in."
It remains a controversial issue for many.
Fox 4's Bella Line spoke with dog owners at Buckingham Community Park. Some were not thrilled with the new law but did not want to speak on camera about it. On the other hand, many agreed it's up to the owner, not the breed.
"A big animal, if it’s being shown aggression then it’s gonna be aggressive, but if it’s being shown love then it’s gonna show love," said Calvert. "Same with small animals, it’s just the bigger ones can do more damage."
With the new law now in effect, the Gulf Coast Humane Society is celebrating bully breeds all of October with half-price adoption fees. More information on this special can be found here.