PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The state lawmaker behind the push to put some teeth into Mississippi's animal cruelty laws is promising a bigger, more organized effort to get the measure passed next year.
As we told you last week, the bill died in a Senate subcommittee. Supporters of the legislation say the bill maybe dead, but the fight for tougher cruelty laws is alive and growing.
Five puppies now have a temporary home at the Pearl River County Animal Shelter after being surrendered to the facility three weeks ago.
"I know the lady had about 40 other dogs. They had a few others to come in that were pretty emaciated," said Elizabeth Treadaway, the shelter worker who has been caring for the puppies. "You could tell they have scars on their faces from fighting for food. And they just don't know how to be puppies because they never spent any time with people."
Treadaway said when animals are surrendered to the shelter by the owner, as they were in this case, no charges are filed.
State Senator Angela Hill has been trying to change Mississippi's animal cruelty laws. Currently, a pet owner can only be charged with one misdemeanor, even if more than one animal is involved.
"Quite honestly, I thought there was a small chance. But the lobby against this bill is significant," said Senator Angela Hill of Pearl River County.
Hill blames the Mississippi Farm Bureau's lobby with killing her bill this year. She said the fear is bills like hers would eventually grow to include livestock. But Hill said there are already strong laws on the books protecting livestock.
"It is already a felony in the State of Mississippi to abuse livestock. But in Mississippi you can burn, torture, mutilate, drown, suffocate a dog or a cat and on the first offense is a misdemeanor," explained Hill.
Hill said her bill has a lot of support and she has already started to rally that support for when she re-introduces the legislation next year.
"We are going to have to work hard between now and the next session to get organized and get letters from all of the rescue organizations. The shelters, veterinarians, law enforcement. We really need the people who deal with this on a daily basis to come together," said Hill.
A similar bill authored by Hill also died in a subcommittee last year. Hill and others are hoping the third time around will be the charm.