Picture your bunnies neon green and your baby chicks a vivid purple.
Floridians will be able to get them in any color come July, unless Gov. Rick Scott vetoes a bill that would repeal a 45-year statewide ban on the dyeing of chicks, bunnies and other animals.
Scott has until Saturday -- the day before Easter -- to sign or veto the bill that has enraged animal activists locally and around the country.
What will he do? His office won't say.
Even if he signs the bill, the dyeing of animals remains prohibited until July 1, when the law takes effect.
The bill also overturns a ban on selling or giving away chicks before they are 4 weeks old and bunnies before they are 8 weeks old, leaving critics worried about newborns being taken from their mothers.
The controversy, first covered by the Sun Sentinel, made the front page of the New York Times this week.
Hundreds of animal lovers and animal rights groups have called or emailed the governor's office to protest the bill, approved by legislators last month. As of this week, the governor's office had received more than 85 calls and 4,300 emails in opposition to the bill.
One of those calls came from Elton Gissendanner, the retired legislator who helped get the law passed in the first place.
"I talked to the governor's office about it," said Gissendanner, a former veterinarian who urged the ban in 1967 because animals were not surviving the dyeing process. "They assured me that this Easter it would still be illegal. That gives us time to get it changed next session."
State Sen. Nan Rich, who voted against the bill, said Thursday she was still hoping for a veto.
"The average person is kind of appalled that we'd be doing this," said Rich, D-Weston. "If The New York Times is saying we're doing something out of the ordinary, that's correct. Half the states have a law prohibiting the dyeing of animals."
At the request of an Oakland Park groomer who wants to dye show dogs, state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, came up with an amendment that would repeal the 1967 law and tacked it onto an agriculture bill.
As word spread of the plan to overturn the long-term ban, protests came in fast and furious.
"I think we should leave the animals alone," said Delray Beach resident Suzanne Nurrito. "If they were meant to be colored, they would have been."
Like others, Nurrito worried that pink bunnies and blue chicks will be purchased on impulse for children, then discarded when the novelty wears off.
"When I read these things it makes me sick to my stomach," said Fort Lauderdale's Holly Maticic. "I want to beg the governor not to sign the damn thing. It's so, so wrong."
But because the bill includes legislation important to honeybee farmers, observers say a veto is unlikely.
"There are a number of things in that bill that are important to the agricultural industry," said Fred Segal, president of Broward County Farm Bureau.
Even if Scott opts not to veto the bill, Segal doubts there will be a mad dash to dye pets. The few who do should make sure to use food coloring or nontoxic dyes, he said, because the wrong stuff can be fatal to the animal.
"It's a shame," said Sharron Carmichael, who handles cruelty investigations for the Humane Society of Broward County. "It's archaic. It makes Florida look that much sillier."
As a child. Carmichael remembers seeing colored chicks around Eastertime.
"Sometimes they made it and sometimes they didn't," she said.
Al Griffin, owner of Grifs Feed and Pet Supply in Davie, sells chickens and rabbits to farmers year-round, but has no intention of coloring the animals to help them sell.
"We don't sell them for toys or novelty," he said. "We sell them to people who are going to raise them."
On Thursday, Griffin wondered why in the world state officials would want to harken back to the old days.
"That was something that was done 30 or 40 years ago," he said. "I think it's ridiculous. I don't think anyone will do it. But who can say. There's some crazy people out there."
For anyone intent on buying their child a real Easter bunny this weekend, Sherry Schlueter of the South Florida Wildlife Center had this advice: "Chocolate bunnies are more appropriate."
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