January 27, 2011 10:14:00 AM
Forty-six states have laws making at least some type of animal cruelty a felony. Four don''t.
Mississippi counts itself among the four. With our poverty and health issues, it''s hard enough to be a human here. If you''re a dog or a cat, forget it.
The Legislature has another chance to right this wrong, and catch Mississippi law up with the values of its people. The state Senate has before it a bill that would make it a felony to "torture, mutilate, maim, burn, starve, disfigure or kill any domesticated dog or cat," carrying with it a prison term of up to five years.
Now, doing such things merits a misdemeanor, with punishment of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, the same as malicious mischief. So, in Mississippi, burning a bag of kittens alive carries the same penalty as breaking a street light.
Why doesn''t Mississippi have stronger animal cruelty laws? It''s not for lack of trying. Bills have been introduced over the past several years. A bill identical to the one that cleared a Senate committee this week, failed in the House last year.
For years, legislators have been swayed by the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, which has fought against the bill. Ironically, the group isn''t opposed to anything in the bill itself.
"Farm Bureau''s concern is that this type legislation will be used as a vehicle to open avenues for activists to extend their reach and push other, more extreme agendas," outgoing Farm Bureau president David Waide said in a letter describing his lobbying group''s opposition to the bill last year.
That''s the same reason some people oppose dancing. Who knows what it might lead to?
We know what animal cruelty leads to -- people who are cruel to animals are five times more likely to inflict harm upon humans, one study shows. In addition to jail time and fines, the bill allows judges to order psychiatric evaluations and care for offenders.
"What we know about animal abusers is that they''re often involved in child abuse, domestic violence, drugs and other criminal activities," Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin, who supports the bill, told The Associated Press.
There''s no good reason to oppose this bill. We urge the Legislature to look past lobbyists'' hollow concerns and do what''s right for Mississippi''s vulnerable dogs and cats.