Lawmakers will debate over a bill that could enforce a harsher penalty for animal abusers.
Over the course of 2016, several videos surfaced on social media of people torturing and abusing animals. From the burning of a cat on someone’s driveway, to the severe beating of a dog on a home surveillance camera, and the most recent death of another cat who was trapped in a cage as two people poured scalding water over it.
Many believe that Mississippi’s current animal abuse laws are too lenient. That’s why Senator Angela Hill authored a bill, SB 2600, that would consider first offenses a felony.
Currently under Mississippi’s law, each instance of animal abuse is considered a misdemeanor unless it is a repeat offense, in which it is charged as a felony.
Hill believes that if individuals were to receive felony charges on the first offense it would deter malicious animal abuse.
“Many times the punishment that comes about really isn’t a deterrent so they just move a little further away and continue the same practices, especially these people running puppy mills.”
In 2011 Sen. Dearing was able to get the Dog and Cat Protection Act passed, however, when law enforcement officers began prosecute cases that fell under the act they hit a roadblock. Officers said it was because of the current statute.
“They can only charge one count against an individual for simple or aggravated cruelty no matter how many animals are involved, they can only charge one count,” said Hill.”It takes a lot of resources to prosecute these cases.”
The bill specifies aggravated cruelty in the code as: suffocating, drowning, burning, scalding, naming, dismemberment. And the amount of charges is caped at 10.
With the aggravated cruelty a psychological evaluation is no longer discretionary but it is mandatory. This statue also apples to youth court offenders.
“The data shows that youth who torture animals are the ones who turn into abusers of humans and those who participate in serious crime,” said Hill. “The earlier you’re able to identify that the greater chance you have to intervene in that and potentially stop a major crime later on.”
The bill also includes a section that would require law enforcement to conform to Federal Bureau of Investigation reporting requirements on four categories of animal abuse. The FBI asked all states to create a uniform document to report cases of animal cruelty to a database. So far Mississippi has been non-compliant.