Gov. Rick Scott on Friday vetoed a bill that would have allowed for the placement of exotic animals (like zebras and rhinoceros) on public lands. H.B. 1117, known as the “Conservation of Wildlife” bill, was lambasted by environmental groups that argued it would “supplant threatened and iconic Florida species with exotic” animals.
The bill would have allowed private zoos and aquariums to lease state conservation lands in order to construct and operate breeding facilities for exotic wildlife, including large hooved animals. Groups like Audubon of Florida called the bill’s passage both ecologically and economically irresponsible.
In his veto letter, Scott wrote that the bill was unnecessary, as the the state’s water management districts already have the authority to use state-owned lands for purposes “not inconsistent with the State Constitution”:
The Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (Board of Trustees) and the governing boards of the five water management districts may currently authorize the use of state-owned and district-owned lands, respectively, for any use not inconsistent with the State Constitution and Florida Statutes. Additionally, I believe that the bill lacks sufficient safeguards, and may restrict the current authority of the Board of Trustees and the governing boards, to ensure the protection of state and district lands, native species, and habitats.
As The Tampa Bay Times‘ Craig Pittman notes, Scott vetoed that bill, but signed an agricultural bill (H.B. 1197) that contains a provision lifting a ban on dyeing chicks, bunnies and dogs a rainbow of colors.
“Animal welfare groups and veterinarians had opposed the bill, which had been filed at the request of a dog groomer who wanted to color his show dogs for more dramatic effect,” writes Pittman. “It takes effect July 1.”