JONES COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - A Jones County woman is believed to be one of the first in Mississippi to be sentenced under the state’s new animal cruelty law.
Interim Justice Court Judge Noel Rogers says he showed some mercy when sentencing 37-year-old Miranda Kittrell for 38 counts of animal cruelty. This was the first case in the Pine Belt to be sentenced under the new legislation.
“I believe I was the first judge in the Pine Belt to use this new animal cruelty legislation for sentencing,” Rogers said. “I did what I felt was fair and just given the totality of the circumstances.”
Kittrell will serve six months in the adult detention center for the animal cruelty charges and is prohibited from owning or living with a domesticated cat or dog for many years to come.
“On a simple negligence case, if it involved more than five animals, then you can prohibit a person from owning, possessing or residing with a domesticated dog or cat for up to 15 years,” Rogers said. “In this particular case, because of the number of animals, I believe the sentencing of 15 years was the correct thing to do.”
Under the new animal cruelty law, animal abusers can now be ordered to do community service and seek counseling. Both are options that Rogers considered during Kittrell’s sentencing.
“The justice court can order that a person who is convicted of this offense, they have to pay for their own counseling up to the jurisdictional limit of justice court, which is $3,500,” Rogers said.
He says the new statute also allows a judge to order a mental assessment. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, animal cruelty can be a symptom of a mental disability or illness.
“They start out with good intentions and then all of a sudden before you know it, they’ve got so many animals they can’t take care of them and then it spirals out of control,” Rogers said. “It almost becomes like a hoarding situation, which is another thing that this new law allows us to do is require a psychiatric or mental evaluation.”
Rogers says in many cases, people begin with good intentions and start an organization to help animals.
“With this new law, I think people will be a little more hesitant to start these pop-up rescue organizations and seek true, licensed organizations that do have the resources to help fund them,” Rogers said.
As an animal lover, Rogers says he will always try to defend the animals any chance he gets.
“This new statute allows us to at least try to get them some help and do the right thing for the animals because nobody wants anything bad to happen to dogs or cats,” Rogers said. “We have to look out for them, they have nobody to look out for them.”
Rogers also ordered Kittrell to pay a $3,800 fine, complete 380 hours of community service and undergo a $3,500 psychological evaluation.