In Mississippi a homeowner can kill a stray cat entering their home or land. There is a sloppy piece of drafting in Mississippi’s cruelty to animals legislation, which allows a person to legally kill a cat that might enter a person’s home through a cat door (cat flap) or anywhere on the person’s land. The cat could be a neighbor’s cat or a stray cat. This is the get-out-of-jail clause.
Mississippi’s animal welfare laws are probably very similar to the animal welfare laws of other states and other countries. Most of the advanced jurisdictions have similar statutes (code or law).
However, in Mississippi there is a defence that is tucked away in the middle of “Title 97. Crimes. Chapter 41. Cruelty to Animals”
You can find it at: § 97-41-16. Maliciously injuring dogs or cats – (4)(a)….
Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting a person from:
(i) Defending himself or herself or another person from physical or economic injury being threatened or caused by a dog or cat.
(ii) Injuring or killing an unconfined dog or cat on the property of the person, if the unconfined dog or cat is believed to constitute a threat of physical injury or damage to any domesticated animal under the care or control of such person.
Let’s interpret that bit of law.
A cat wanders in through an open door or a cat flap. The person who owns the house does not like cats. He lives alone. He throws a heavy object – a milk crate – at the cat. The cat is hit and is knocked out and appears to be dead. He picks the cat up and dumps it outside. Later he sees the cat is still alive and he kills it with garden shears. He disposes of the cat. Someone, a neighbour perhaps, sees the man kill the cat with shears. This is exactly what happened recently in Jones County, Mississippi. The police did nothing about it.
The cat killer was protected by this bit of sloppy law. He can say he was defending himself from potential “economic injury”. “Economic injury” is a term that can be widely interpreted. He could say the cat jumped up and knocked over a vase or scratched his wood floor. Anything, no matter how minor and insubstantial, could form the basis for an excuse to kill a cat under these circumstances.
There would no witnesses to the killing so the home owner is virtually free to do as he pleases. In fact a cat hater could kill a cat outside in his yard or anywhere on his property which might be many acres and cite the same defence.
One other weakness in animal welfare laws of this type is that almost all cat abuse laws refer to cruelty. If a cat is killed instantly the argument goes that the cat felt no pain and therefore there was no cruelty.
This is the law that Woody refers to when he says people can shoot cats on their own property with impunity. It is bad law. All acts directed towards any cat, anywhere should not be cruel and should not be animal abuse. Essentially, that is the law in England and Wales.