Hill says animal cruelty bills killed by Farm Bureau influence

Published 7:00 am Thursday, February 2, 2017

Sen. Angela Hill's bill to strengthen penalties against animal cruelty offenders died in committee this week after agricultural lobbying efforts. Photo by Julia Arenstam

Sen. Angela Hill’s bill to strengthen penalties against animal cruelty offenders died in committee this week after agricultural lobbying efforts.
Photo by Julia Arenstam

After another year of facing off against lobbyists, Sen. Angela Hill’s dog and cat abuse bill died in committee on Tuesday.

SB2600, written by Hill and sponsored by Senators David Parker, Kevin Blackwell and Sean Tindell, was double referred to the Senate Agriculture and Judiciary A committees earlier this month.

The bill would have amended section 97-41-16 of Mississippi State Law, also known as the “Mississippi Dog and Cat Pet Protection Law of 2011,” to enhance penalties for acts of cruelty.

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The bill died “unfortunately because the lobbyists up there have a lot of influence and that’s basically Farm Bureau,” Hill said.

She said their “slippery slope” argument of enhancing penalties for dog and cat abuse will eventually result in more regulations on livestock.

“There’s no legitimate concern there,” Hill said. “It’s just muscle flexing to be honest with you.”

Hill’s proposal would have enhanced penalties for simple cruelty to a dog or cat by increasing fines to between $300 and $1,000 and imprisonment of up to six months; penalties for aggravated cruelty would be enhanced to a felony conviction on the first offense and require between one and five years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.

Not only would the bill have increased penalties, it would have allowed for suspects to be charged with up to 10 counts of simple or aggravated cruelty if multiple animals were involved, the bill states.

Under the current law, fines for a conviction of simple cruelty to a dog or cat—a misdemeanor—is $1,000 maximum, or $2,500 maximum for aggravated cruelty to a dog or cat—also a misdemeanor.

The charge only becomes a felony when a person is convicted of a second offense of aggravated cruelty within five years. The fine is then increased to up to $5,000 and up to five years of imprisonment.

“[The bill] got a tremendous amount of media attention this year…there was tremendous support from grassroots [organizations] and from the media,” Hill said.

Despite bipartisan support, she said the agricultural lobby succeeded in stopping the measure, but she will continue to fight for change.

However, Hill said, “We might not get anything until we get new leadership in the House and Senate…that’s absolutely the factor.”

Hill said this is a “common sense law,” referring to other Mississippi laws that charge spectators of dogfights with a felony.

“But if you set a dog on fire or put it in a cage and pour scalding water on it, you’re only charged with a misdemeanor,” she said.

Other measures sponsored by Hill that died in committee this week include a measure to put campaign finance reports on county and municipal websites, mandate the false reporting of child abuse a criminal offense and a measure to return 18.5 percent of sales tax revenue collected in the county back to county government.


About Julia Arenstam

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