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When will Mississippi stand up for pups?

Walk into the cage room at the Natchez-Adams County Humane Shelter and instantly your ears will be filled with barks, yaps and howls.

If you can manage to keep your eyes pointed to the floor or straight ahead, you might make it through the room without feeling a tug.

But if you have a weak moment, and you peer into the cages, it’s almost a given that you’ll have an instant connection with one of the little pooches hoping you’ll take him or her home.

Growing up with dogs in our household, we were taught at a young age to have respect for animals. As children, we were encouraged to “be sweet” when approaching or petting dogs.

Unfortunately, the respect and kindness shown to animals isn’t a trait that is universally shared.

It baffles me to hear how utterly cruel and heartless some people can be to domesticated animals.

Cases of animal abuse occasionally make national headlines, but the problem isn’t one that happens “somewhere else.” It’s a problem that manifests itself everywhere, even in our backyard.

Our area has seen cases in which dogs were burned, hung, shot and intentionally fed car anti-freeze (which ends in a painful death). Due to relatively lax current laws in Mississippi, the sadistic individuals who torture dogs and cats often get the equivalent of a slap on the wrist.

At present, Mississippi is only one of four states in the country where torturing dogs and cats is not a felony.

Our local representative in the Mississippi Senate, Sen. Sen. Bob M. Dearing, D-Natchez, has for several years sponsored legislation that would allow law enforcement officials a way to throw the book at the people who torture animals.

Dearing’s latest bill is one of two that have cleared the Senate and now await action in the Mississippi House.

In the past, the bills have been killed mostly based on the influence of the powerful Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.

They fear the laws would be extended to somehow affect farmers who raise cattle or other livestock.

It’s a ridiculous idea and we hope legislators do not cave to the false fear the Farm Bureau lobbyists are sure to be planting around the capital.

Both bills clearly address dogs and cats, not animals raised for livestock. The bills also contain plenty of other exceptions, too, including allowing a dog or cat to be killed if the person feels threatened and fearful from harm.

The time for Mississippi to fix this hole in our legal system and right a long-standing wrong is long overdue.

The longer Mississippi continues to have its head stuck in the 1800s — as the Farm Bureau folks would like — the longer our state will continue to be considered “backward” to the rest of the country.

It’s time for lawmakers to look into the eyes of the state’s poor, defenseless dogs and cats and say, “Yes, we’ll do our best to protect you.”

Throwing the book at the heartless torturers is a good start, before they turn their sadistic ways toward people instead of pets.

But we can only do that when we change the law. Lawmakers have the power to change this, but do they have the courage to stand up for man’s best friends, even if they cannot vote?

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

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