Mississippi Legislators Fail Animals and Their Advocates
The Mississippi Legislature can be challenging for animal advocates who propose new legislation on behalf of animals. Protective agricultural interests combined with the belief that animals exist solely for human use often thwart attempts to implement meaningful changes for animals within the state. Already just this year, seven of the eight animal protection bills introduced have died in their respective committees so far.
Representative Greg Snowden, House Speaker Pro Tempore of the Mississippi House of Representatives, authored two bills, H.B. 984 and H.B. 990, to strengthen the Mississippi Dog and Cat Pet Protection Law of 2011. Both of these bills sought to make a first offense of aggravated cruelty to an animal, and a second offense if committed within five years of the first, a felony.
Currently, an individual who has engaged in either simple or aggravated cruelty to animals may only be charged with a single count, regardless of the number of counts committed and the number of animals involved in a single incident. The law defines animal cruelty as simple in the case of neglect, and aggravated if deliberate torture, torment, or maiming occur. Rep. Snowden’s bills would have designated each count as a separate offense.
With Representative Snowden’s bills dying in committee, it is no surprise that a similar bill introduced by Representative Carolyn Crawford’s failed after being assigned to the House Agriculture Committee.
Senator Angela Hill introduced S.B. 2582 and S.B. 2692 which included creating a registry for animal abusers, and Senator Doty, Vice Chair of Senate Judiciary A Committee introduced S.B. 2581. All three bills would have strengthened the Mississippi Dog and Cat Pet Protection Law of 2011, but sadly they died in their assigned committees.
Senator Bob Dearing’s bill, S.B. 2101 would have legislated the licensing of kennels, shelters, stables, and the like, however, advocates were concerned that the bill was not well-defined and it would ultimately give control to the Agriculture Commission, which would be an unintended, yet very negative consequence.
Only one bill was approved by committee by the February 5th deadline. If passed, Senator Hill’s bill S.B. 2014 will include protection for animal companions under court-issued protection in cases of domestic violence. This is a vital component for individuals who often fear escaping domestic abuse situations because of the potential ensuing dangers to their animal families.
Please stay tuned for updates regarding changes for animals in the Deep South from our Justice for Animals campaign and please consider supporting our vital work with a generous donation.