Editorials

Lawmakers won’t listen every time an animal is abused in Mississippi. We must yell louder.

Josh Avila with his dog, Akela, left, and the dog after it was shot in the head. A GoFundMe account was set up to try to cover the cost of surgery Akela needs for facial reconstruction after the shooting.
Josh Avila with his dog, Akela, left, and the dog after it was shot in the head. A GoFundMe account was set up to try to cover the cost of surgery Akela needs for facial reconstruction after the shooting. Courtesy Josh Avila File

This is for the tens of thousands of readers aghast at the story of Akela, the Alaskan Malamute puppy that someone shot somewhere in the woods of the Cumbest Bluff area in Jackson County.

This is for Rayla Schiewe, the 7-year-old who called and called for the puppy, then screamed for help when the dog crawled up on the porch and collapsed, a bullet hole in his head.

This is for Josh Avila, Akela’s owner, who for a while didn’t know if he’d ever see his dog run and play again.

And it’s for the more than 600 people who contributed to the GoFundMe account to pay for Akela’s care and recovery. Avila had hoped for $1,800. As of Thursday evening, the account had nearly $9,000.

And, it’s for animal lovers everywhere. We hear from them every time a puppy mill is raided, a dog-fighting ring is busted, animals are rescued and someone finds a perfect pet. It’s for those every time a packed animal shelter asks for help.

We thank you for your generosity.

And we want you to know we hear you. We feel your anguish. We’re listening. We're trying to help.

Because many of your state leaders aren’t.

Every year lawmakers from the Coast and elsewhere file bills to tighten laws intended to discourage animal abuse. And every year, those bills die with little more than a whimper.

We’re not talking about radicals in the mold of PETA, we’re talking about conservative lawmakers like Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden, whose revisions to the Mississippi Dog and Cat Pet Protection Law of 2011 died in the Agriculture Committee.

“I can’t imagine why,” Snowden said. “It seems like such a common-sense measure to me, which many, many citizens have expressed enthusiastic support for.”

So as it stands in Mississippi, you can torture, mutilate, main, burn, starve or disfigure a dog or cat and get off with a misdemeanor. It doesn’t matter how many animals a person harm in a single incident. They can be charged with only a single offense.

Perhaps if pets or pet owners could afford to ply members of the Agriculture Committee with fancy meals, they’d get more than a cursory hearing.

We’ve asked on your behalf.

We asked the Farm Bureau, in the past the main impediment to sensible pet protections. We asked Rep. Bill Pigott, chairman of the committee.

Perhaps they are having trouble hearing us. Maybe they need to hear from more of the thousands who favor a common-sense measure. Call them. Often. Remind them there’s another session next year when they can beef up pet protection. And if they don’t, later that year is another election.

You can reach the Farm Bureau at 601-957-3200. Pigott’s number is 601-303-0988. Call them. And your representatives and senators, too.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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