A bill is working its way through the Mississippi Legislature that will put some teeth into penalties for those found abusing animals. Senate Bill 2658 will increase penalties for cruelty to dogs and cats in Mississippi.
In Defense of Animals, the international animal protection organization that operates Hope Animal Sanctuary and the Justice for Animals Campaign in Carroll County, is urging Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves to sign a new animal protection bill into law passed by state lawmakers today.
“Animal advocates across the nation are ecstatic to see that Mississippi lawmakers have listened to the will of their people by passing SB 2658 — a bill that will finally give law enforcement and the judicial system the power to get justice for dog and cat victims of abuse,” said Doll Stanley, In Defense of Animals’ Justice for Animals Campaign Director. “We urge Governor Reeves to sign and officially adopt the new law. Everyone working to protect animals in Mississippi is eagerly awaiting his signature so we can bask in this moment of victory.”
Governor Reeves has five days to sign the bill once it has been presented, which will go into effect immediately.
“For too long, criminals have been getting away with a slap on the wrist for some of the most heinous acts of cruelty imaginable,” said Stanley. “Violence to animals is directly linked with acts of cruelty to humans including child abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse and other violent behavior. This new law will have a wide-ranging positive effect in Mississippi.”
In Defense of Animals joined animal advocacy organizations and advocates throughout Mississippi to pass the Mississippi Dog and Cat Protection Law of 2011. However, the felony section, 97-41-16 for maliciously injuring dogs or cats, stifled the prosecution of aggravated animal cruelty as a felony. Those convicted only face felony charges under this statute if they commit a second offense within five years of a first conviction.
Additionally, themisdemeanor section of this statuteformerly allowed only a single charge of cruelty, no matter how many animals were the victims of a crime.
SB 2658, which was introduced by Sen. Angela Hill, addresses those issues. Now, not only will abusers be charged with a felony on a first offense for aggravated cruelty, they will also face a count for each dog or cat that they harm. The penalties for a second offense felony within five years also doubles from up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison, to up to a $10,000 fine and up to 20 years in prison, or both.
“The passage of SB 2658 means that true justice can be served for each individual dog and cat who suffers at the hand of their vile abuser. Prior to the enactment of the dog and cat protection law in 2011, each individual was protected. With Governor Reeves’ signature, he will reinvigorate this weakened law so that abusers can be justly prosecuted for a felony,” said Stanley.
Mississippians who value the lives of their companion animals owe much to Sen. Angela Hill, (R-Picayune) for her steadfast determination to protect dogs and cats from cruel treatment. Hill and 13 co-authors have repeatedly introduced this bill for several years. Finally, fellow legislators have met her challenge and done the right thing.
In Defense of Animals has served in Mississippi for 27 years. Our Justice for Animals Campaign has championed tougher animal protection laws and has served to educate and assist law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges in areas of animal law and cruelty investigation, in addition to connecting them with the resources to aid with or prevent cruelty cases.