Animal cruelty bill heads to governor

A bill that makes aggravated cruelty to a domesticated dog or cat a felony has been approved by state House and Senate conferees and is now on its way to Gov. Haley Barbour for his signature.

SB 2821, originally introduced by Sen. Bob Dearing, is a result of a compromise between The Humane Society of the United States and the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. These two organizations, originally on opposite sides of the bill, hammered out their differences and agreed to the amended legislation.

“I think this bill addresses the major concerns of both organizations and the people that they represent,” said Randy Knight, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.

“This legislation provides meaningful penalties for the worst cases of animal cruelty,” said Lydia Sattler, The Humane Society of the United States’ Mississippi state director. “We needed a starting point to update animal cruelty laws, and this is a huge step for Mississippi.

If the bill is signed by the Barbour, Mississippi will become the 47th state to make aggravated cruelty a felony offense.

A first offense is punishable by a fine up to $2,500 and up to six months in jail. A second offense within five years makes the crime a felony punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and a minimum of 1 year in prison and no more than 5 years in prison, as well as covering the costs of treating and sheltering the animals in question.

Read more about this story in Thursday's Sun Herald.