New animal cruelty bill increases penalty for abuse in Mississippi

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) —  For many years, animal advocates in Mississippi have been pushing for stricter animal cruelty laws.

Just last week, Governor Tate Reeves signed off on a bill that will do just that.

Not only will abusers be charged with a felony on a first offense for aggravated cruelty, they will also face a count for each dog or cat they harm.

Doll Stanley, who is a part of an animal protection organization called “In Defense of Animals, said this new bill fixes an issue the previous bill didn’t have.

“When the dog and cat law was passed in 2011, it restricted the ability of law-enforcement and people who are affiance like myself from charging a count for each animal that was violated,” she said.

In addition to felony charges, Stanley said those convicted must fulfill another requirement.

“Anyone who is harming a companion animal dog or cat if convicted, or if they plea, one of the components is a mental health evaluation and treatment,” said Stanley.

Karen Johnwick, Director at Columbus Lowndes Humane Society, is hoping this new bill is a step in the right direction.

“I do actually believe that it’s going to help prevent some of the cases because before if you were an animal hoarder or something, you just kind of got a slap on the wrist and you could have had 50 or 100 animals,” said Johnwick. “Where now the new bill, you are going to actually be penalized for each animal.”

Johnwick said she is on board with a mental health evaluation.

“These people can get the help they need and then they won’t continue hopefully doing the same thing because a lot of times once they start it’s a continued effort for the rest of your lives,” said Johnwick.

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