Support the animal cruelty bill

Published 12:00 pm Monday, February 22, 2016

Billy Hudson, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, takes his Shih Tzu Tux just about everywhere with him and can be seen in Jackson taking the pup for a walk while the Legislature is in session.

If someone steals and tortures Tux before killing him, it is just a misdemeanor. If someone steals all the dogs and cats and occasional hamster or parakeet from the homes of senators in Mississippi, rounds them up and does the same thing in one big mass execution, it is still just a misdemeanor because it was all in one instance and a first offense.

Hudson and the members of the Agriculture Committee have the opportunity with Senate Bill 2174 to make the first offense a felony, but thus far he has not called for the committee to meet to even send it onward in the legislative process.

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There are quite a few domestic animal bills before his committee, and what I do not comprehend is why Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves put these domestic animal bills into that particular committee. They have nothing to do with livestock and farming, which by the way, already have the luxury of a first offense against livestock being a felony. This bill has everything to do with family pets and protecting the defenseless animal that sleeps on your couch while you work and saves your life when there’s a house fire by waking you up. They have names and personalities, and I dare say, souls, and are not cattle.

Farm Bureau has traditionally, every year, told legislators to let animal cruelty bills die. Farm Bureau has exceptionally deep pockets and active lobbyists. Animal lobbyists have told me legislators now believe animal bills are a “slippery slope” to where if the animal rights “crazies” get their way with domestic animal bills, they will then turn to dictate how chickens, cattle and other farm animals can be treated. According to what I’ve heard coming out of the hallways of Jackson, Farm Bureau lobbyists have programmed many to believe that the Humane Society of the United States and its supporters are a bunch of nuts.

I support SB 2174 and I can tell you I’m not on the crazy cat lady level. I have domestic pets I love and would defend at all costs, but I also chow down on some meat. I do not go hug trees in protests and while I joke they do, my dogs do not eat better than I do. I am your average SB 2174 supporter.

I emailed both Reeves and Hudson early last week telling them I support SB 2174 and even asked for a quote for a column. They have not responded. It seems everyone is trying to ignore the bill so it goes away, and it will go away if not brought out of committee.

There is no debating that people who torture or kill other people often first start with animals. The FBI recognizes this and has a database of people who have committed offenses to animals that they can use as a watch list. Mississippi needs to catch up with the rest of the nation on animal cruelty laws so we can be included on that watch list.

As many economic leaders tout, prospective businesses study the perception of a state and how advanced it is on many fronts when considering opening up shop in Mississippi. Let’s hope the next big company that can come provide us with jobs, revenue and progress isn’t run by an animal lover.

Stephanie Rebman is editor of The Oxford EAGLE. Contact her at