Animal rights activists are hailing the latest action at the Mississippi Capitol. For the first time the House Agriculture Committee passed the Mississippi dog and cat pet protection law. The bill contains a felony provision for second offense cruelty and cats.
In a rare alliance, the Humane Society of the United States and Mississippi Farm Bureau have reached a compromise and are applauding the committee's efforts to strengthen animal cruelty laws. Until the compromise they were on opposite sides. Both are urging lawmakers to send the bill to Governor Barbour for his signature.
Mississippi is one of only 4 states in the nation without such legislation.
This is the Humane Society's press released issued Friday, February 18:
"The humane Society of the United States and Mississippi Farm Bureau applaud the Mississippi House Agriculture Committee's approval of a measure to strengthen Mississippi's animal cruelty law, and today urged the Legislature to send the bill to Governor Haley Barbour with no further changes.
SB 2821, introduced by Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, passed the Senate on Feb. 9. Today, the House Agriculture Committee, chaired by Rep. Greg Ward, D-Ripley, passed a substitute version of the bill that contains a felony provision for second-offense aggravated cruelty to a dog or cat.
The bill, which contains exemptions for killing animals in order to protect livestock, must still make its way through the House Judiciary B committee and a House floor vote before being sent back to the Senate for concurrence. "We feel this will protect agriculture and rural Mississippians and applaud the committee for diligent work to balance the rights of our members and animal cruelty concerns," said Randy Knight, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation President.
"Updating the antiquated cruelty laws in Mississippi has been a top priority for the Humane Society of the United States, and we hope this bill passes for the protection of Mississippi's pets and citizens," said Lydia Sattler, the Humane Society of the United States' Mississippi State Director. "The compromise reached today by the Agricultural Committee, and agreed to by both groups, will provide meaningful penalties for the worst cases of animal cruelty and we look forward to passage of this important legislation."
Until this compromise was reached, the HSUS and Farm Bureau were on opposite sides of the effort to enact a felony animal cruelty law in Mississippi. But both sides pointed out that the Arkansas Farm Bureau reached a similar compromise with the HSUS in 2009, when Arkansas became the 46th state to enact a felony law for certain acts of cruelty to animals. "I have taken criticism for not passing earlier versions of this bill," Ward said. "But on important matters like animal cruelty, which have significant implications for farmers and rural Mississippians, I think it's best we take our time and make sure we get it right. This bill protects animals and it protects farmers, and I'd like to see it become the law."
Sen. Billy Hewes, R-Gulfport, authored a similar measure that would have made aggravated cruelty to a dog or cat a felony on the first offense. That bill, SB 2127, did not make it out of the House Agriculture Committee today."
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