Rally for tougher animal rights laws set for Sunday

Published 1:00 am Friday, November 17, 2017


NATCHEZ — Members of the Natchez-Adams County community are pledging online to take part this Sunday in a rally for tougher animal cruelty laws in Mississippi.

Amy Nix Murray said after the discovery of a suspected dogfighting operation last week in the Cranfield community, she wanted to create a venue for people in the county to express their frustration concerning Mississippi’s lax animal cruelty laws.

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The Adams County Sheriff’s Office discovered one of the largest suspected dogfighting rings last week at 29 1/2 Miracle Road, where more than 55 pit bulls were chained in a 2-acre lot.

Many of the animals were injured, without access to water and emaciated.

Resident Tommie Queen was arrested on 50 charges of dogfighting, an animal cruelty charge and a charge for possession of stolen property, but posted his $60,000 bail and was released later that week.

Murray and friends Lori Isbell, Haley Stiles and Cecelia Hopkins Stephens decided to host a “family friendly” rally where men and women in the community could bring children, pets and signs to show support for stricter penalties for animal abusers.

Under Mississippi law no first-offense felony charge exists for animal cruelty.

A dogfighting charge is considered a felony, with a maximum sentence of three years, a $5,000 fine or both. A second-offense dog or cat cruelty felony charge also exists which can incur up to a $1,000 fine or a prison sentence up to six months or both.

Mississippi’s current law also includes a mischievous injury to livestock felony punishable by up to a $10,000 fine, a jail sentence of up to five years or both.

For general animal cruelty not involving dogs, cats or livestock, however, no felony-level charge exists.

“By now, we all know how lax animal cruelty laws are,” Murray said. “We decided to get together and rally to show support of tougher legislation.”

By Thursday evening, the Facebook event had more than 110 people who said they were going to the event or interested in going to the walk, which will start at 2 p.m. Sunday at the bandstand gazebo on the bluff.

Three Miss-Lou animal shelters — Natchez-Adams County Humane Society, Concordia PAWS and the Vidalia Dog Pound— have committed to attend.

NACHS Director Lena McKnight said she would bring some dogs for any attendees who do not have an animal but would like to join the walk.

Murray said a face-painting booth and a Santa Claus would be on scene to take photos along with a dry or canned dog food donation area that would benefit local animal shelters.

Though the march is for the benefit for all animals, Murray said it might be best not to bring cats to the walk, since many dogs would likely be on site.

Murray said to bring all dogs on leashes and encouraged residents to bring signs to the event.

Several online petitions exist to promote tougher animal cruelty laws, but Murray said showing community support for a change in laws through physical presence would show legislators how important the issue is to Mississippians.

Murray said she hopes local representatives get a bill on the senate floor this year and, if that happens, she plans to drive to Jackson to advocate further for the cause of animal rights.