Florida is even hailed as one of the most transparent states, with Sunshine Laws that strongly incentivize agencies to respond to FOIA requests. Heck, you can even find the name, address, email, race, and voter affiliation of any resident of the state (author included).
So you can imagine my surprise at how protective the city of Jacksonville was towards their registered dog data.
As a little experiment in transparency, MuckRock set out to file for pet licensing data for the most populous city in each state. The response from Jacksonville will have you wondering whether or not the state statutes are really protecting their citizen’s privacy, or - the more logical conclusion - serving the whims of their cat overlords.
At first, I was told that the Florida state law requires a rabies vaccination with the animal owner’s name, street address, phone number, and animal tag number. All of this would have to be redacted as per statute FS 828.30(5), which was fine by me. The information I was really after was the most popular dog name in the city (stay tuned), and not where Buddy’s owner lived.
“If you would like a time and cost estimate for the redacted versions of every rabies vaccination certificate in the city, we will provide one. Please let us know,” said the response to my FOIA request.
“Yes, please let me know the time and cost estimation,” I responded.
“I’ll be in touch when I get confirmation of how many certificates would require redaction. Fair warning: this will likely number in the [t]housands.”
Instead, I was denied the records because in my original request I asked for the data to be send as an Excel document, and the Sunshine Law does not require any agency to create new records when responding to a request.
I replied that it was fine, they could just send over the documents in whatever format they wanted.
Then, the person handling my FOIA request took some time off, with permission of her cat overlords, of course. But deadlines do not recognize cat overlords as legitimate rulers, so I persisted.
And again, I was met with Grumpy Cat.
“I received a response from the individual who responded to you before. There is no further information available to you,” said the person who was taking over my request.
I asked for clarity on the denial, and got this response.
I said, again, that I did not need the personal identifiers in the record, and that they could send me the information in whatever format they had it in. I know that heavily redacted documents are a part of FOIAs, but gosh darn it, I needed to know how many pit bulls were named Pitbull.
The last correspondence I received from Jacksonville was more sterilized than all the male dogs in my house.
What puzzled me was that there is no actual state law in Florida that restricts dog licensing information, unlike in New Hampshire. To the same request, Manchester replied with statute 466:1, which reads ”no dog registration records, information, or lists shall be sold, rented, transferred, or otherwise made available in whole or in part, in any form or format, directly or indirectly, to another person.”
This can only mean one thing - something purr-verse is going on in the Sunshine State.
Image via Imgur