CL – Hewes’ animal cruelty bill favored

Mississippians who commit acts of cruelty against dogs or cats could go to prison for up to five years and pay a $10,000 fine, based on a state Senate committee’s action Tuesday.

Members of Judiciary B voted to send to the Senate a bill that would make it a felony on first offense to “torture, mutilate, maim, burn or maliciously starve, disfigure or kill any domesticated dog or cat.”

“It’s a great day, a huge day for animals and people,” said Tiffany Frautschi of Meridian, president of MS-FACT, an organization that backed a first-offense felony measure. “But this is just one hurdle.”

Sen. Billy Hewes, R-Gulfport, who authored the measure, said there is “pretty broad support for it.”

“We have had input from everybody from the Humane Society to the Mississippi Farm Bureau (Federation) to the National Rifle Association.”

Champions of tougher animal-cruelty laws have been urging legislators to take action for several years, Hewes said.

A recent spate of high-profile animal-cruelty cases galvanized supporters of Hewes’ bill, which imposes a minimum penalty of one year in prison and a $1,500 fine.

One of those cases involved a Canton animal control officer fired after he was accused of improperly killing more than 100 animals.

Clarion-Ledger
1/27/10