LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - A new bill signed into law by Gov. Tate Reeves will help protect cats and dogs by offering harsher punishments for animal cruelty.
Senate Bill 2658, authored by Sen. Angela Burks Hill, was signed into law last week. Hill says the bill emphasizes three areas of the original animal cruelty bill from 2011.
“You have more than one count for incident, a felony on first offense torture and prohibition of ownership,” Hill said.
According to the bill, if acts of animal cruelty are committed against more than one dog or cat, each act counts as a separate offense, differing from the previous law.
Law enforcement can also now charge a felony offense for each animal that is abused, making the punishment harsher than it was previously. Under the law, if any “person with malice shall intentionally torture, mutilate, maim, burn, starve to death, crush, disfigure, drown, suffocate or impale” a domesticated dog or cat, the person will be guilty of felony aggravated animal cruelty.
“So, they could get up to $5,000 and three years for a first offense felony,” Hill said. “For a second offense felony they could get up to $10,000 and they will be in prison in the Department of Corrections not less than one year or more than 10. So, they’re going to get a year. If they get that second offense, they’re going to get a minimum of one year.”
One group rallying behind the group is Mississippi Citizens Against Animal Cruelty.
“We’re just praying that the animals now... they have a voice, and it’s us,” said MCAAC vice president Linda Bock. “And we spoke and they heard us. And so we’re their voice and it’s just amazing and now it can make a difference in their lives.”
The Animal Rescue League in Laurel has seen horrible acts of animal cruelty in the past. The organization rescued a dog named Marley who was found with a gunshot wound and tied up to an abandoned car. They say it’s painful to see an animal in this condition.
“Heart breaking,” said Director Elisha Dykes. “Literally heart breaking. I can’t even fathom how an individual could be so heartless and so cruel to do that to a defenseless creature.”
Advocacy groups say this bill will help dogs like Marley get the justice they deserve.