MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Senator Angela Burks Hill from Picayune isn't giving up on trying to increase penalties for animal abusers.
Senate Bill 2174 failed to make it out of committee during the last session, but Hill has since made minor adjustments.
"The people who are charged with aggravated animal cruelty, it gives the judge discretion on whether to order a psych [evaluation] and I'm going to change that to make it mandatory," said Hill.
The bill aims to make first-offense animal cruelty a felony; an action Hill says will not only help protect animals, but could also possibly protect people.
"We realized we do need to make this heinous torture, aggravated animal cruelty, a first offense felony because those folks can still go and get a job with normal people and pass a background check even though they're torturing animals," Hill added.
Hill says the law would also save local law enforcement time and money.
"Law enforcement said, 'Look, we're having to use our resources over and over for these same people because the law isn't being a deterrent. They're just moving around to some other jurisdiction and they're still neglecting these animals and running these puppy mills, and we need some help to put some teeth in the law,'" Hill said.
Maridee Mallette, adoption coordinator at the Jackson County animal shelter, sees the effects of animal abuse every day.
"They think, 'Who cares about animals, they're just animals.' They're not. They're just like us," said Mallette. "They feel things, they feel everything we feel, they just can't speak. They can't say stop this hurts, there's nothing they can do. That's why we have to help them, we are their voice."
In most Mississippi animal abuse cases, offenders walk away with a misdemeanor and a fine. Although some face jail time, Mallette says it isn't enough.
"The punishment isn't large enough; that's why you can get away with it," Mallette added.
Hill says she should know the fate of her new bill by the end of January.