Should Animal Cruelty Charges be a Felony?
This past week, 55 dogs and 34 cats were rescued from abuse, poor conditions, and maltreatment in Jones County, Mississippi. This rescue came from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and Southern Cross Animal Rescue. Due to the HSUS’ intervention, these animals are now receiving veterinary care, nutrition, and the help they very much needed. On a huge property (161 acres), these animals were being horrifically neglected. The HSUS stated, “the animals appeared to suffer from a lack of veterinary care and were housed in conditions typically seen in severe neglect situations.” The Jones Country sheriff was involved after HSUS and Southern Cross Animal Rescue. The sheriff, Alex Hodge, released a statement saying “The Jones County Sheriff’s Department works to give the citizens of Jones Country a safe place to live, and that is not limited to the people. Our pets are our family and deserve a healthy atmosphere. Situations like these, though this particular incident seems quite massive, are more than unfortunate, they are unfair and unnecessary.”
Although unfair and unnecessary, Mississippi is one of the only two states “without felony penalties for egregious animal cruelty such as torture or starvation, on the first offense. No matter how deprave an act of animal cruelty is, law enforcement can only charge the offender with a misdemeanor if he or she doesn’t have a previous conviction for animal cruelty.” Although each state differs in their first, second, and third penalty fines and potential jail time, all 50 states have some sort of legal consequence for animal cruelty. This situation has continued the advocacy for more animal cruelty laws and punishments in the state. After reading this article, I questioned how an individual could “get away with” prolonged animal cruelty on such a large scale. The 89 animals affected were in desperate states when HSUS and other help arrived, causing me to wonder why no one called Animal Control or other services earlier. It may be due to the nature of their property; 161 acres is a significant amount of land. However, any neighbors or passersby who witness this type of animal cruelty (in any state) should be prompted to report it. Additionally, this situation questions the legal punishments for animal cruelty crimes. In my opinion, there should automatically be felony charges on the first offense for "egregious animal cruelty" which includes torture and starvation. I don’t believe that these harsher charges should only be reserved for second and third-time offenses.
What do you think? Should all states have mandatory felony charges for “egregious animal cruelty” on the first offense? Or do you believe that Mississippi’s laws are just? Link (for article): https://people.com/pets/cats-dogs-rescued-mississippi-abuse/ AND http://www.straypetadvocacy.org/PDF/AnimalCrueltyLaws.pdf Link (for picture): https://secure3.convio.net/humane/images/content/pagebuilder/hsus-logo-blue-bg.png