The legislation is intended to set animal cruelty sentences at a higher level of offense.
Ponce's Law, which would make animal cruelty convictions more severe, passed the legislature on Friday, March. 9, and is now on its way to Gov. Rick Scott to be signed.
House Bill 473, filed on Friday, Oct. 27, came about after a 9-month-old black Labrador retriever was beaten and killed in April 2017. Travis Archer was charged with a third-degree felony in the incident, which made national headlines.
The dog was later given the name "Ponce," and, since that time, an outpouring of support has come from the community. One organization, Justice for Ponce, has received thousands of signatures on a petition to enforce harsher punishment for animal cruelty. This means violations of aggravated animal cruelty in the Criminal Punishment Code would go from a level 3 to a level 5 violation.
Aggravated animal cruelty is currently at a level 3.
According to the Senate's website, the bill, designated "Ponce's Law," would revise the classification of certain animal cruelty offenses while also authorizing the court to "prohibit violators from owning or having contact with animals."
One of the organization's leaders, Debbie Darino, said she has been working with legislatures to come up with the bill that was filed. Rep. Tom Leek filed the legislation, which now awaits committee references.
Darino put together a petition for the law and has received more than 86,000 signatures.
"This way, if you get convicted, you're going to jail and you cannot own an animal," Darino said. "You cannot have contact with an animal, and the judge will decide for what period of time, if that's forever or for a short period of time."
A statue dedicated to Ponce was unveiled during a memorial service Wednesday, Oct. 5.