On the Shoofly - August 2020
- story by Dena Temple
"D" has a soft heart. So when the big, friendly stray came into her life – looking dirty, a little sick and in need of some TLC – she and her husband opened their hearts and home, fostering the dog back to good health at their own expense. Eventually, they ended up adopting the dog. With excellent care over the months, it had blossomed into a splendid companion.
One day, when her husband and the dog were out for a ride, a car followed them home. It was the dog’s previous owner, who offered proof that the dog had been hers. The couple were understandably concerned because of the dog’s condition when they found it, so they visited the woman’s house to confirm they were returning the dog to a healthy environment. All seemed well. After tearful good-byes, the couple promised to return for visits and did a few times.
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Just recently I’ve come to know a neighborhood dog. “Trouble” – that’s what I call her – is a puppy who’s been left outside, free to roam the neighborhood and run in the street. I returned her to her house more than once; the last time I found an overturned water dish and no food. Animal Control has issued citations, but sadly, the future does not look bright for Trouble.
People have very different ideas of how pets, particularly dogs, should be cared for. Some are not a “pet” of the family at all and are kept outside in a pen, ignored but for the occasional hunting trip. Some get little attention from their owners and are poorly socialized.
Dogs are “pack” animals by nature and require social interaction, particularly with humans, to be well-adjusted. Failure to provide affection and intellectual stimulation for a dog can cause problems with aggression, barking and fear responses. This miserable existence is comparable to life in an animal shelter, which most would agree is pretty bleak.
In the past, Mississippi has taken a weak stance on animal cruelty, treating it as a misdemeanor offense with negligible fines.
However, just recently Governor Tate Reeves signed into law Senate Bill No. 2658, which makes simple or aggravated cruelty or neglect punishable by hefty fines, prison time and even psychological counseling.
Offenders can be prohibited from owning pets for at least five years. Under the amended law, each animal affected now counts as a separate offense for owners of more than one dog.
In particular, aggravated cruelty has been elevated to a felony offense, and persons convicted of aggravated cruelty may be added to an FBI watch list – which will appear on employment background searches.
Bay St. Louis and Waveland each have additional ordinances (see them at the end of this article).
Most pet owners are kind, compassionate people who are devoted to the care of their pets. Their dogs and cats are part of the family, and these pets enjoy a lifetime of affection and comfort. But because not everyone shares the same definition of “pet,” we need to be alert for problems.
A pet kept outdoors should have shelter from the sun and heat, food and water, and should be contained in a fenced yard to keep it safe from injury by cars, predators, or other dogs.
If you see a pet being kept in a way you feel is unhealthy or otherwise unsatisfactory, please report what you see to your local animal control officer and get it on record.
Potential cases of animal neglect or cruelty can be reported in the county, Waveland and Bay St. Louis by contacting Central Dispatch at (228) 255-9191, and ask to have an Animal Control officer visit the residence.
Look for clues of neglect such as injuries, skin disease, etc. If you see a dog that is not receiving the basic essentials of care, reach out to Animal Control. An animal’s life may depend upon it.
Here is a summary of the basic laws concerning dog ownership and care in our area.
Complete municipal ordinances concerning the care of pets in Bay St. Louis can be found here.
- Dogs cannot run loose on public property and must be leashed at all times, on a leash not exceeding eight feet in length. Dogs at large will be impounded.
- Dogs cannot be allowed to annoy people, or become a nuisance by destroying property, barking, defecating, or by knocking over garbage containers.
- No person can torture, torment, unjustifiably injure, deprive of food, drink or shelter, or beat or mutilate any dog, or permit others to do so.
- All dogs must be vaccinated against rabies and wear a tag on its collar attesting to the vaccination. Any dog caught running at large without a vaccination tag will be presumed to be unvaccinated and will be held for a period of five days. The owner pays all expenses of the capture and impoundment, including having the dog vaccinated if proof of vaccination cannot be shown.
- Dogs cannot be fastened, chained, tethered or tied to a stationary object while such dog is on the dog owner's property or residence. Dogs must be kept in a fenced yard of at least 100 square feet, or in a pen of at least 100 square feet. If a dog is kept indoors, provisions must be made for the dog to receive outside exercise.
Waveland’s animal control officers not only enforce but also educate the public on the law and try to seek voluntary resolution when possible. Complete municipal ordinances concerning the care of pets in Waveland can be found here.
- All dogs must be vaccinated for rabies and bear a valid tag.
- Dogs are not permitted to run at large within the city limits. “At large” means not controlled by its owner. Dogs at large may be impounded, and owners must show proof of rabies vaccination and pay all costs to recover the dog.
- No owner shall fail to care for and control his animals. Dog owners must provide proper shelter and protection from the weather. Pens must be large enough to allow freedom of movement and must be cleaned and disinfected daily. Food and water dishes must be kept clean. Owners must not allow their properties to become so soiled that the property itself is a nuisance (noxious odor) or health concern.
- Pet owners must clean up after their dogs on all public property or property belonging to others.
- Dogs cannot be allowed to become a public nuisance (causing property damage, barking or howling, soiling on property other than its owner’s).
- Pet owners may be charged with animal cruelty if any of the following conditions exist:
- Failing to provide adequate sanitary shelter and conditions, clean water, sufficient food, exercise, and necessary medical care.
- Abandoning a pet without making provisions for its adequate care. (Lost pets are not considered abandoned.)
- Willfully or negligently allowing a pet, including pets that are aged, diseased, injured or disabled, to suffer unnecessary neglect, torture, or pain.
- Striking an animal with a motor vehicle and not reporting the accident to an animal control officer.
- Tethering a dog to a stationary object that severely limits the dog’s range of movement. Tethers must allow at least 100 square feet of movement, be arranged to avoid entanglement, and weigh less than 10% of the dog’s body weight. Dogs cannot be left tethered to an unoccupied building or property.
- Leaving a pet in a vehicle when doing so might harm the animal. If the owner cannot be found, law enforcement officers may use any available method to remove a pet in distress from a vehicle, and the pet will be impounded.
- Allowing a pet to exist unattended, living in its own waste without cleaning or sanitizing the animal living area