George County,MS– Sheriff Dean Howell says the sheriff’s office receives calls daily regarding animals. Callers reporting animal abuse, animal cruelty, animals roaming free and attacking and killing small livestock or other pets. Reports of citizens being chased and terrorized on their own property and even being attacked and bitten. And horses, being tied to trees or to some other object that doesn’t allow them to move about freely and get to water or food. Horses so thin every bone in their body shows through the skin, or their skin is falling off due to disease or mistreatment.
With the increasing numbers of calls Sheriff Howell says it was necessary to look to the Humane Society of the United States and investigate any laws already on the state’s books that would allow the sheriff’s office to fine and charge animal owners for the mistreatment of their animals.
Lydia Sattler, the Mississippi State Director of the Humane Society of the United States visited George County last week and toured some of the locations the sheriff department has received complaints about. According to Ms. Sattler, “Rigorous investigations and prosecutions of animal abusers will send the message that cruelty to animals will not be tolerated in this community. If an animal’s life is in danger or an animal is in very poor condition, it is imperative that law enforcement intervene to protect the animal from continued abuse. In some cases, seizing a person’s animals is necessary, and then the owner is still required to pay a cash bond for the care of the animals until a court determines final disposition.”
According to Ms. Sattler, investigating cases involving allegations of cruelty to animals is an essential step in protecting the community. The connection between animal cruelty and human violence is well documented. Studies show a correlation between animal cruelty and all manner of other crimes, from narcotics and firearms violations to battery and sexual assault.
In 2007, Luke Woodam of Pearl, MS tortured his dog Sparkle and eventually killed his mother and a classmate. Could this tragedy have been prevented if someone had reported the animal cruelty? This doesn’t mean anyone who abuses animals will become a serial killer, but every serial killer known has abused animals before moving on to humans. For this reason, all but two states have felony animal cruelty laws on the books. Mississippi is one of the 48 states that do.
The following Mississippi Codes 1972 are in place and enforceable for those who are cruel to animals.
97-41-1 Living creatures not to be cruelly treated
97-41-3 Authority to kill injured, neglected animals
97-41-5 Carrying creatures in a cruel manner
97-41-7 Confining animals without food or water
97-41-9 Failing of owner not to provide sustenance
97-41-11 Fighting animals or cocks
97-41-13 Penalty for violating certain sections
97-41-15 Malicious injury to livestock; penalty; restitution
97-41-16 Mississippi dog and cat protection law of 2011
97-41-17 Poisons, administering to animals
97-41-18 Intentionally conducting fights between dogs and hogs
97-41-19 Dog fighting
97-41-21 Harassment of guide, leader, and service dogs
97-41-23 Injury and killing of public service animals
Sheriff Howell says in order to protect the citizens of George County, and ensure the welfare of animals in George County the department will be investigating and fining and or punishing those who violate these laws.
According to the sheriff, if pet and animals owners who do not take care of their animals, and who intentionally leave them to die tied up to a tree or have them go without food or water for days, they will be fined and charged with animal cruelty which could be a misdemeanor or a felony and also comes with jail time.
The sheriff’s office has been called to homes in George County during the past year investigating some of the most awful treatment of horses in particular, treatment so horrific the animal had to be put down on the spot.
One of the laws on Mississippi books is 97-41-15, the malicious or mischievous injury to livestock; penalty; restitution which states in part
‘Any person who shall maliciously, out of cruelty, or who intentionally kill, maim, or wound, any livestock, or cause any person to do the same, shall be guilt of a felony and upon conviction, shall be committed to the custody of the State Department of Corrections for not less than twelve (12) months nor more than five (5) years, and fined an amount not less than One Thousand Five Hundred dollars ($1,500.00), nor more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000).
The Mississippi Dog and Cat Protection law of 2011 has equally harsh fines and punishments that range from $1,000 to $5,000 and those that participates in, trains, promotes, stages fights or fighting matches between dogs, or wages a bet, or encourages wagering or betting shall be guilt of a felony and upon conviction will pay fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 and prison sentences of 1 to 3 years or both.
According to the Humane Society, pet or livestock owners who are not able to properly care for their animals can be offered the opportunity to surrender the endangered animal into the care of someone else willing to take the animal. This process is done when the owner signs a surrender form and the animal is taken away by someone who will care for it.
According to the sheriff’s office, dog fighting has been known to take place in George County, and with the enforcement of these animal laws anyone who participates, attends, sponsors, promotes, wagers, owns or trains a dog for fighting will be arrested.
Sheriff Howell says enforcing these laws has become a necessity for the county and its citizens. And hopefully will force pet and livestock owners to be responsible for their animals and not leave it to others to do for them. Sheriff Howell also says it’s a safety factor as well and the citizens of George County should be able to walk outside, ride a bike, or leave their own pets unattended outside for fear of being attacked by unmanaged pets.
The law concerning dogs running at large is clear. The owners are responsible for any damages the dogs cause. If any dog owner does not comply with these laws and if found to be in violation of such laws in addition to damages incurred shall also face misdemeanor or felony charges which also include jail time.
Whether it be to property or livestock, courts costs incurred as the result of any proceedings are the responsibility of the owner of animals that are responsible for any damages incurred when livestock wander onto any federal or state designated paved highways or rights-of-ways shall be responsible for any wrecks, damages or loss of life as a result of livestock being on the designated highways.
The fines or fees written by any law enforcement officer will be assessed according to the laws of the state of Mississippi and administered through the court system.
Sheriff Howell says because of the irresponsibility of some animal owners, the sheriff’s office must enforce these laws so citizens and animals alike will be safe from injury. And to hold those accountable who choose to maintain animals in conditions that no animal should have to live in. If you have horses for example and are not able to care for them….then surrendering the animal to someone who can is an option.
Anyone with questions is encouraged to call the sheriff’s office at 601 947-4811.