Anti-abuse legislation may die in committee

Published 10:09 am Wednesday, January 25, 2017

It appears legislation that would make aggravated animal abuse of pets a felony will not make it out of committee, according to media reports.

Mississippi Today reported that the bill has been referred to two committees, which typically means it won’t see the floor for a vote.  Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, has filed the bill in the past only to watch it die in committee.

The bill seeks to enhance penalties for people convicted of aggravated abuse of cats and dogs. It would make first-time aggravated abuse a felony. Aggravated abuse is defined as “intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, burning, scalding, suffocating, drowning or starving to death and disfiguring,” according to Mississippi Today. The bill would also allow a suspect to be charged with up to 10 counts each of simple and aggravated abuse, the non-profit news website reported.

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“It’s just not normal behavior to torture an animal, to scald it or set it on fire. Hopefully something can be done before they move on to doing something like this to a human,” Hill said.

Hill’s legislation is needed and it’s unclear why there is opposition to it. The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation has fought against the bill and similar measures, presumably because of fears that farmers would be targeted under a change in the law.

But proponents have argued that the bill is specific to cats and dogs, not livestock. The abuse of livestock is already a felony so it’s unclear why Farm Bureau would oppose similar penalties for the abuse of dogs and cats.

Other states have similar legislation and for good reason. The abuse of animals shouldn’t be tolerated, and shouldn’t be punished by the slap on the wrist that current law allows.