We're Working Hard to Pass Better Laws for Animals in Mississippi
Doll Stanley, our Justice for Animals Campaign Director, is a vocal part of a new coalition comprised of Mississippi-based animal welfare leaders. The dedicated coalition is working with legislators and officials on a number of bills aimed at strengthening Mississippi’s animal protection laws. Making each individual act of intentional harm to dogs and cats a felony, increasing penalties for dog fighting, and including domestic animals in the Domestic Abuse Act are all positive changes on the horizon.
There is a Senate and a House version of a bill that aims to amend the cat and dog cruelty provision, MS § 97-41-16 Maliciously injuring dogs or cats. Senator Angela Hill and Representative Greg Snowden have introduced their respective bills seeking felony charges for aggravated cruelty to dogs or cats regardless of whether it's a perpetrator's first offense or not. Current law does not allow felony charges until after there's been a misdemeanor animal cruelty offense on record, and it must have been within five years, or it doesn't count! The bills would also allow an increase in the amount of charges brought against the defendant(s) depending on the amount of animals affected as current law allows for only one criminal count no matter how many animals are involved. If passed, the bills would also require the reporting of felony convictions for animal cruelty.
Senator Dearing introduced legislation to increase the penalties for dog fighting under MS § 97-41-19 , which currently maxes out at a fine for organizers between no less than $1000 and no more than $5,000, and/or with imprisonment no longer than one year and no more than three years. For spectators, current fines are not less than $500 and not more than $5000, and no more than one year in jail.
Our coalition was asked to study the bills and to comment. Once our suggestions were delivered, we went to the capitol and met with the liaison to House Speaker Phillip Gunn who assigns House bills to committee. We then met with the liaison to Lt. Governor Tate Reeves who assigns Senate bills to the committees that will make or break them.
Two other bills have been introduced as well. Senator Angela Hill’s second bill, is SB 2232, which proposes bringing pets under the protection of MS § 93-21-15, the Domestic Abuse Act. Representative JP Hughes introduced HB 386, which would give EMTs authority to transport wounded law enforcement dogs for emergency medical care.
The coalition is hard at work with Doll and other leaders from organizations like Mississippi Spay and Neuter (MS SPAN), the Animal Advocacy Initiative of Mississippi, and the Mississippi Animal Rescue League. They are fighting hard for animals today so animals can have a better tomorrow. Please consider making a donation to support our critical work.