Animal advocates gather in Hancock County - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Animal advocates gather in Hancock County

Organizers of this initial animal advocacy event say they were thrilled with the turnout and will be hosting similar events in the future. (Photo source: WLOX) Organizers of this initial animal advocacy event say they were thrilled with the turnout and will be hosting similar events in the future. (Photo source: WLOX)
HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

Strengthening Mississippi's animal abuse laws and expanding educational programs dealing with animals. Those were among the topics at Thursday's Animal Advocacy Day in Hancock County. One organizer of the event said, “People care, they really do.”

The group Friends of the Hancock County Animal Shelter wants to improve the welfare of animals.

“The way we treat ourselves and the way we treat our animals kind of says who we are as a country, a nation and a community,” said Christina Richardson as she addressed those gathered in the board room of the county supervisors.

Sharing concerns over issues related to animals with community leaders is the main idea behind Animal Advocacy Day. One issue that keeps coming up in Mississippi involves strengthening the state's animal abuse laws, regarded as among the weakest in the nation.

“We need to strengthen them. The law in 2011 was a great step in the right direction, and we're trying to tweak it and enforce some of the anti-cruelty things that need to be enhanced. For example, a one-time egregious offense is still just a misdemeanor. We'd love to see that be a felony,” said Richardson.

State lawmaker Rep. David Baria reminded the group that changing the law is not an overnight proposition.

“So, it's a process. Sometimes it takes a long time to get a bill or an act together. Then, you realize when you try to enforce it that there are loopholes, there are problems. You have to go back and tighten it up,” Baria told the group.

Along with amending cruelty laws, education is another priority. Teaching youngsters the proper care of and attitude toward animals will go a long way toward preventing mistreatment.

“It's better to start them off young and educate 'em young so that they know the importance of spay and neuter and the importance of vaccinating their animals and how to care for 'em,” said animal shelter director Toni Accardo.

Organizers say they're pleased with the turnout at this first animal advocacy event and are hopeful such sharing can lead to improving the welfare of animals.

“This is a very animal loving community here, and animal issues are important to them. So, we have a lot of support from the community, which is great,” said Micky Evans, with the Friends of the Animal Shelter group.

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