Legislation that would strengthen the punishment against anyone who harms dogs and cats has cleared a key state House committee.
The bill, which represents a compromise between animal rights groups and groups that include the Mississippi Farm Bureau, was approved by the House Agriculture Committee, which had failed to support protection for dogs and cats in the past. A similar bill already has been approved by the state Senate.
According to The Humane Society of the United States, Mississippi is one of only four states in the country that does not have a felony penalty for egregious acts of animal cruelty.
Under the bill approved in the House committee, the first offense for various offenses including intentionally torturing, maiming or burning a cat or dog would still be a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $2,500 and up to six months in jail. A second offense would be a felony, with up to a $5,000 fine, five years in prison or both.
Supporters of stronger punishment say current Mississippi law that makes violations a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $1,000 and six months in jail discourages prosecution. It encourages unscrupulous people, including those who operate puppy mills, to just ignore the law, knowing that little will result from it.
As we understand it, both the Humane Society and the Farm Bureau are supporting the compromise that brings the felony into play on the second offense. We support making abuse of dogs and cats a felony on the first offense, but the compromise bill is certainly better than we have now.
It’s time to get Mississippi in step with the rest of the country on the issue of committing terrible abuses of dogs and cats. No one should oppose this bill.