The Humane Society of the United States applauds Mississippi lawmakers for strengthening the state’s legal protections for animals, making Mississippi the 47th state to enact felony penalties for the most egregious cases of cruelty to dogs and cats. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour signed the felony animal cruelty bill into law on Tuesday after it passed the state legislature with strong bipartisan support.
SB 2821, sponsored by staunch animal protector Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, is a long overdue improvement to a state cruelty statute that The HSUS had rated as the weakest in the nation. The new law makes aggravated cruelty to dogs and cats a felony on the second offense; allows the courts to require animal abusers to receive psychological counseling and ban them from working with animals; allows shelters that house seized animals to receive financial restitution from the offender for the cost of caring for the animals; provides simple misdemeanor penalties for cruelty and neglect of all animals; and—for the first time in Mississippi history—outlaws keeping dogs outside without adequate shelter.
The bill’s final language was the result of a compromise between The Humane Society of the United States and Mississippi Farm Bureau.
“This law is a monumental leap forward for Mississippi’s animals,” said Lydia Sattler, The HSUS’ Mississippi state director. “We applaud the legislature for recognizing the link between animal cruelty and human violence, and for taking steps to protect our animals and our communities.”
Under the new law, a person convicted of a second-offense aggravated cruelty to a dog or cat within five years could receive a fine up to $5,000 and one to five years’ imprisonment. All other new penalties in the bill are misdemeanors, with penalties reaching $2,500 in fines and up to six months in jail.
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