Today I am proud to be a Mississippian! Soon I will be even prouder when new legislation aimed at protecting dogs and cats and punishing those who would harm them is finally passed into law.
Our state is one of only four states with lax fines and punishment meaning really no punishment at all. What has taken us so long? I really think the majority has wanted harsher punishments for years. What I do know is that finally all the small voices joined to become one loud voice that couldn't be ignored any longer. One strong voice to speak on behalf of all the defenseless dogs and cats who have suffered, or will suffer, such inhumane treatment.
I can't even put into words the anger that would fill my soul every time I read or heard of an animal painfully abused or killed. I shed tears for those sweet animals who only yearned for love and affection from the hands of their abuser. Over the last few years I have done my small part signing petitions and sending letters. My heartfelt thank you's go to the ones who worked tirelessly to bring this law into fruition. They are the true angels.
JACKSON -- House members sent Gov. Haley Barbour legislation Wednesday that could send the worst dog and cat abusers to prison for up to five years.
By a 117-5 vote, House members approved the Mississippi Dog and Cat Protection Law, which would make it a misdemeanor to mistreat dogs or cats by withholding food and water, mutilating or cruelly beating or killing an animal.
Cases of more severe abuse -- torture, mutilation, burning, starving or killing a domesticated cat or dog -- would result in a felony charge punishable by one to five years in prison and fines ranging from $1,500 to $10,000 if it is the second abuse charge within five years.
Simple negligence, such as depriving dogs or cats of shelter, food or water, would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
In each case of negligence, authorities would have to determine that abusers did so "intentionally or with criminal negligence," according to the legislation.
The measure passed with no debate on the House floor.
"I've been working on this for about seven years and had a lot of encouragement through the years to keep trying, and the perseverance paid off," said Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, the Senate sponsor. "Most laws that we pass in the Legislature only become effective when it affects you or the perpetrator personally. And at that time, both of them will recognize how important this bill is."
Dearing said he could not get House conferees to go along with the Senate on making each animal death -- drowning a litter of puppies, for example -- an individual charge. The final legislation would treat those drownings as one single charge.
The matter of dog and cat cruelty received generous publicity after a 20-year-old Natchez, Miss., man was sentenced to six months in jail and fined $1,000 in 2009 after he tied his female pit bulldog to a tree, doused her with lighter fluid and set the animal on fire.
When a neighbor intervened, the man put out the fire and the dog was taken to a local veterinarian, who had to euthanize the animal because it was so severely injured.
The legislation sent to Barbour would require judges to order animal cruelty perpetrators to make restitution to pet owners, including payment of veterinary bills.
Make Mississippi proud Governor Barbour! Sign now!