Mississippi is Backward on Cat Cruelty
This is a fact not an opinion. There are only four states in the USA that do not make acts of cruelty against cats and dogs a felony. For visitors from countries other than the USA a “felony” is a serious crime, while a misdemeanor is a minor or lesser crime. On conviction, the punishment for a misdemeanor is lighter than for a felony. Most countries don’t classify crimes in this way as far as I am aware.
There is now a second attempt going through the law making process in Mississippi (sponsored by Senate Pro Tempore Billy Hewes) to reclassify cat and dog cruelty as a serious crime, a felony, with a maximum prison term of 5 years and an maximum fine of $10,000.
Cruelty to a cat is a deliberate act as a opposed to negligent behavior leading to animal suffering and injury. The two are very distinct. Cat cruelty would include: torture, mutilation, maiming or burning a cat or dog.
Rather bizarrely dog fighting is a felony in Mississippi. How can that be more serious that dog cruelty inflicted by a person?
The answer is that the legislation has been routinely opposed by the agriculture industry through the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation – surprise, surprise. Clearly people working in agriculture treat cats and dogs in a way that could be deemed to be animal cruelty. There can be no other explanation. However, they say that such legislation “interferences in the management practices of meat-production businesses”. What does that mean? It sounds very odd and ominous to me.
What is also interesting is that the bill excepts farming, veterinary practices and hunting, for example. Clearly the legislators are ring fencing declawing of cats which is a blatant act of legalized cruelty when it is carried out for non-therapeutic purposes.
Another interesting anomaly is that livestock is protected from “malicious or mischievous injury”. So why aren’t cats and dogs protected in the same of similar way?
One of the most interesting facets of this legislation is that the police force welcomes legislation making cruelty to cats and dogs a felony because where there is cruelty like this there are frequently other serious crimes such as child cruelty and domestic violence. The one leads to another, which improves conviction rates in the police force. It seems that making cat and dog cruelty a felony will also help protect people.
One criticism of this much welcomed bill is that it only covers cats and dogs. Surely all companion animals, indeed all animals should be protected in equal measure. This is clearly a compromise to try and satisfy the farmers.
Not only should the punishment for cat cruelty be commensurate with the gravity of the act but if this bill is passed and becomes law the perpetrator would be prevented from working in schools and for example nursing homes. This is a reflection of the fact that animal abusers are often also people abusers and very unpleasant people.
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