A new state law puts some teeth in the penalties for animal abuse and might help prevent loss of life. Read the laws and find out what you can do to help.
- story by Dena Temple
Recently, the couple learned that the dog had died of neglect, having been left outside in the scorching sun and heat with no water. They were heartbroken.
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.
Animals cannot let us know when they are being abused or neglected, so I encourage you to become a monitor in your own neighborhood. Be aware of your neighbor’s pets.
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.
Bay St. Louis
Complete municipal ordinances concerning the care of pets in Bay St. Louis can be found here.
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.