The laws of Mississippi which protect cats and dogs from acts of abuse and cruelty are found under the following statute title in the next paragraph. As a whole this statute covers many areas of animal welfare. At the end of the section about injuring dogs or cats I have reproduced an overarching section of the act concerning general animal cruelty.
Title 97. Crimes. Chapter 41. Cruelty to Animals. Title 97. Crimes. Chapter 29. Crimes Against Public Morals and Decency. In the middle of this statute is the following section/clause: § 97-41-16. Maliciously injuring dogs or cats. Below is this section in full.
As is usual in American law animal cruelty is graded depending on it severity with lesser examples being categorised as misdemeanours and the more serious offences described as felonies. The blue highlighted sections immediately below point these out. You can also see the differences in punishment for these offences.
This is a pretty standard animal welfare/protection law and similar to what you’d find in many developed countries in the West.
It is notable that the US state of Mississippi ranks 49th out of the 50 states for the quality of their state animal protection laws as at 2022 as stated by Animal Defense League Fund online. In last place is New Mexico. The best is Maine.
§ 97-41-16. Maliciously injuring dogs or cats
(1)(a) The provisions of this section shall be known and may be cited as the “Mississippi Dog and Cat Pet Protection Law of 2011.”
(b) The intent of the Legislature in enacting this law is to provide only for the protection of domesticated dogs and cats, as these are the animals most often serving as the loyal and beloved pets of the citizens of this state. Animals other than domesticated dogs and cats are specifically excluded from the enhanced protection described in this section for dogs and cats. The provisions of this section do not apply, and shall not be construed as applying, to any animal other than a domesticated dog or cat.
(2)(a) If a person shall intentionally or with criminal negligence wound, deprive of adequate shelter, food or water, or carry or confine in a cruel manner, any domesticated dog or cat, or cause any person to do the same, then he or she shall be guilty of the offense of simple cruelty to a domesticated dog or cat. A person who is convicted of the offense of simple cruelty to a domesticated dog or cat shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined not more than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or imprisoned not more than six (6) months, or both. Each act of simple cruelty that is committed against more than one (1) domesticated dog or cat constitutes a separate offense.
(b)(i) If a person with malice shall intentionally torture, mutilate, maim, burn, starve to death, crush, disfigure, drown, suffocate or impale any domesticated dog or cat, or cause any person to do the same, then he or she shall be guilty of the offense of aggravated cruelty to a domesticated dog or cat. Each act of aggravated cruelty that is committed against more than one (1) domesticated dog or cat shall constitute a separate offense.
(ii) A person who is convicted of a first offense of aggravated cruelty to a domesticated dog or cat shall be guilty of a felony and fined not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or committed to the custody of the Department of Corrections for not more than three (3) years, or both.
(iii) A person who is convicted of a second or subsequent offense of aggravated cruelty to a domesticated dog or cat, the offenses being committed within a period of five (5) years, shall be guilty of a felony and fined not more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00) and imprisoned in the custody of the Department of Corrections for not less than one (1) year nor more than ten (10) years.
For purposes of calculating previous offenses of aggravated cruelty under this subparagraph (iii), commission of one or more acts of aggravated cruelty against one or more domesticated dogs or cats within a twenty-four-hour period shall be considered one (1) offense.
(c) A conviction entered upon a plea of nolo contendere to a charge of aggravated cruelty to a domesticated dog or cat shall be counted as a conviction for the purpose of determining whether a later conviction is a first or subsequent offense.
(3) In addition to such fine or imprisonment which may be imposed:
(a) The court shall order that restitution be made to the owner of such domesticated dog or cat. The measure for restitution in money shall be the current replacement value of such loss and the actual veterinarian fees, medicine, special supplies, loss of income and other costs incurred as a result of actions in violation of subsection (2) of this section; and
(b) The court may order that:
(i) The reasonable costs of sheltering, transporting and rehabilitating the domesticated dog or cat, and any other costs directly related to the care of the domesticated dog or cat, be reimbursed to:
1. Any law enforcement agency; or
2. Any agency or department of a political subdivision that is charged with the control, protection or welfare of domesticated or feral dogs or cats within the subdivision. The agency or department may reimburse a nongovernmental organization for such costs, if the organization possesses nonprofit status under the United States Internal Revenue Code and has the purpose of protecting the welfare of, or preventing cruelty to, dogs or cats whether domesticated or feral.
(ii) The person convicted:
1. Receives a psychiatric or psychological evaluation and counseling or treatment for a length of time as prescribed by the court. The cost of any evaluation, counseling and treatment shall be paid by the offender upon order of the court, up to a maximum amount that is no more than the jurisdictional limit of the sentencing court.
2. Performs community service for a period not exceeding the applicable maximum term of imprisonment that may be imposed for conviction of the offense.
3. Be enjoined from employment in any position that involves the care of a domesticated dog or cat, or in any place where domesticated dogs or cats are kept or confined, for a period which the court deems appropriate.
4. If convicted of simple cruelty under this section, be prohibited from owning or possessing or residing with a domesticated dog or cat for any period of time not exceeding five (5) years from the date of sentencing, or any period of time not exceeding fifteen (15) years from the date of sentencing if the conviction involved four (4) or more counts of simple cruelty.
(c) The court shall order that any person convicted of an offense of aggravated cruelty under this section be prohibited from owning or possessing or residing with a domesticated dog or cat for a period not less than five (5) years nor more than fifteen (15) years from the date of sentencing.
(d) A person found in violation of a court order incorporating the provisions of paragraph (b)(ii)4. or (c) of this subsection may, in addition to any other punishment provided by law, be fined in an amount not exceeding One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) for each domesticated dog or cat unlawfully owned or possessed.
(e) Any domesticated dog or cat involved in a violation of a court order described in paragraph (d) of this subsection shall be forfeited to the state.
(4)(a) Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting a person from:
(i) Defending himself or herself or another person from physical injury being threatened or caused by a domesticated or feral dog or cat.
(ii) Injuring or killing an unconfined domesticated or feral 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.
(iii) Acting under the provisions of Section 95-5-19 to protect poultry or livestock from a trespassing dog that is in the act of chasing or killing the poultry or livestock, or acting to protect poultry or livestock from a trespassing cat that is in the act of chasing or killing the poultry or livestock.
(iv) Engaging in practices that are licensed or lawful under the Mississippi Veterinary Practice Act, Section 73-39-51 et seq., or engaging in activities by any licensed veterinarian while following accepted standards of practice of the profession within the State of Mississippi, including the euthanizing of a dog or cat.
(v) Rendering emergency care, treatment, or assistance to a dog or cat that is abandoned, ill, injured, or in distress, if the person rendering the care, treatment, or assistance is acting in good faith.
(vi) Performing activities associated with accepted agricultural and animal husbandry practices with regard to livestock, poultry or other animals, including those activities which involve:
1. Using dogs in such practices.
2. Raising, managing and using animals to provide food, fiber or transportation.
3. Butchering animals and processing food.
(vii) Training for, or participating in, a rodeo, equine activity, dog show, event sponsored by a kennel club or other bona fide organization that promotes the breeding or showing of dogs or cats, or any other competitive event which involves the lawful use of dogs or cats.
(viii) Engaging in accepted practices of dog or cat identification.
(ix) Engaging in lawful activities that are regulated by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks or the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, including, without limitation, hunting, trapping, fishing, and wildlife and seafood management.
(x) Performing scientific, research, medical and zoological activities undertaken by research and education facilities or institutions that are:
1. Regulated under the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act, 7 USCS 2131 et seq., as in effect on July 1, 2011;
2. Regulated under the provisions of the Health Research Extension Act of 1985, Public Law No. 99-158; or
3. Subject to any other applicable state or federal law or regulation governing animal research as in effect on July 1, 2011.
(xi) Disposing of or destroying certain dogs under authority of Sections 19-5-50, 21-19-9 and 41-53-11, which allow counties, municipalities and certain law enforcement officers to destroy dogs running at large without proper identification indicating that such dogs have been vaccinated for rabies.
(xii) Engaging in professional pest control activities, including those activities governed by the Mississippi Pesticide Law of 1975, Section 69-23-1 et seq.; professional services related to entomology, plant pathology, horticulture, tree surgery, weed control or soil classification, as regulated under Section 69-19-1 et seq.; and any other pest control activities conducted in accordance with state law.
(xiii) Performing the humane euthanization of a dog or cat pursuant to Section 97-41-3.
(xiv) Engaging in the training of service dogs used to assist those with physical or mental health conditions.
(b) If the owner or person in control of a domesticated dog or cat is precluded, by natural or other causes beyond his reasonable control, from acting to prevent an act or omission that might otherwise constitute an allegation of the offense of simple cruelty to a domesticated dog or cat or the offense of aggravated cruelty to a domesticated dog or cat, then that person shall not be guilty of the offense. Natural or other causes beyond the reasonable control of the person include, without limitation, acts of God, declarations of disaster, emergencies, acts of war, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods or other natural disasters.
(5) The provisions of this section shall not be construed to:
(a) Apply to any animal other than a domesticated dog or cat.
(b) Create any civil or criminal liability on the part of the driver of a motor vehicle if the driver unintentionally injures or kills a domesticated dog or cat as a result of the domesticated dog or cat being accidentally hit by the vehicle.
(6)(a) Except as otherwise provided in Section 97-35-47 for the false reporting of a crime, a person, who in good faith and acting without malice, reports a suspected incident of simple cruelty to a domesticated dog or cat, or aggravated cruelty to a domesticated dog or cat, to a local animal control, protection or welfare organization, a local law enforcement agency, or the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, shall be immune from civil and criminal liability for reporting the incident.
(b) A veterinarian licensed in Mississippi or a person acting at the direction of a veterinarian licensed in Mississippi, who in good faith and acting without malice, participates in the investigation of an alleged offense of simple or aggravated cruelty to a domesticated dog or cat, or makes a decision or renders services regarding the care of a domesticated or feral dog or cat that is involved in the investigation, shall be immune from civil and criminal liability for those acts.
(7) Other than an agency or department of a political subdivision that is charged with the control, protection or welfare of dogs or cats within the subdivision, any organization that has the purpose of protecting the welfare of, or preventing cruelty to, domesticated dogs or cats, shall register the organization with the sheriff of the county in which the organization operates a physical facility for the protection, welfare or shelter of dogs or cats, on or before the first day of October each year. The provisions of this subsection (7) shall apply to any organization that has the purpose of protecting the welfare of dogs or cats, or preventing cruelty to dogs or cats, regardless of whether the organization also protects animals other than domesticated dogs or cats.
(8) Nothing in this section shall limit the authority of a municipality or board of supervisors to adopt ordinances, rules, regulations or resolutions which may be, in whole or in part, more restrictive than the provisions of this section, and in those cases, the more restrictive ordinances, rules, regulations or resolutions will govern.
Laws 1993, Ch. 438, § 3, eff. July 1, 1993. Amended by Laws 2006, Ch. 491, § 1, eff. July 1, 2006; Laws 2011, Ch. 536, § 1, eff. from and after passage (approved April 26, 2011); Laws 2020, S.B. No. 2658, § 1, eff. July 1, 2020.
Overarching purpose of the Act
Except as otherwise provided in Section 97-41-16 for a dog or cat, if any person shall intentionally or with criminal negligence override, overdrive, overload, torture, torment, unjustifiably injure, deprive of necessary sustenance, food, or drink; or cruelly beat or needlessly mutilate; or cause or procure to be overridden, overdriven, overloaded, tortured, unjustifiably injured, tormented, or deprived of necessary sustenance, food or drink; or to be cruelly beaten or needlessly mutilated or killed, any living creature, every such offender shall, for every offense, be guilty of a misdemeanor.
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