Lawmakers re-examining animal cruelty laws - - Jackson, MS

Lawmakers re-examining animal cruelty laws

By Cheryl Lasseter - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Due to the current animal cruelty laws in Mississippi, a woman who was caught harboring 130 dogs in squalid conditions in Pearl River County last month won't be punished.

"She really didn't have a consequence. It's an agreement she limit herself to ten dogs," says Lydia Sattler, Director of the Mississippi Chapter of the Humane Society of the United States. Sattler helped investigate the puppy mill, and helped with the seizure of the animals.

Under stricter laws, the woman might have been levied a fine or forced into counseling.

Last year, a Hinds County family's cat was found with an arrow through its head. The offender may have gotten away with a mere slap on the wrist, if he or she was ever found.

An attempt to toughen the state's animal cruelty laws died in the legislature this year. But the House Agriculture Committee, which killed the bill, is resurrecting it for next year. A meeting Thursday included lawmakers, an animal control officer, shelter workers, a veterinarian, and others. They're working together to fashion a bill, regarding cruelty to dogs and cats only, that everyone can agree on.

"We get questions sometimes, what if I accidentally hit a dog with my car. That's not what we're talking about," says Margo Kirkpatrick, a member of Mississippi Fighting Animal Cruelty Together. "We're looking at people who are pouring lighter fluid on a dog, setting it on fire, torturing kittens," she says.

Farm Bureau Federation President David Waide was not present for the meeting. We were unsuccessful trying to reach Waide by phone on Thursday.

The Farm Bureau has raised objections in the past regarding animal cruelty legislation. In March, Waide told us, "Our concern is that this type of legislation will be used as a vehicle to open avenues for activists to extend their reach and push other, more extreme agendas."

But Committee Chairman Greg Ward says the Bureau's influence only stretches so far.

"The Farm Bureau or no other organization, even myself, has the power to overrule my committee," he says. "Over the past three years we have not presented a bill to the house we have lost. It's not my intention to bring one to the house floor that's gonna fail."

A tentative version of the bill should be drafted in the next few weeks. More meetings may be on the agenda to hone the legislation.

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