Mississippi passes bill making animal torture an automatic felony; Iowa is now the only outlier in nation

By on July 2, 2020 with 0 Comments

We have good news to share from Mississippi and Iowa, the only two states in the nation without a law on the books that would make acts of animal torture, like burning, drowning and intentional starvation, an automatic felony. Recently, Mississippi’s state legislature passed a bill that would do exactly this. And although we are still fighting for a similar outcome in Iowa, we are pleased to report that the state recently made its first significant update to its domestic animal cruelty law in 20 years.

The win in Mississippi is an especially proud moment for us here at the Humane Society of the United States, because we have led the battle for a felony animal cruelty law there for more than a decade. The final bill that passed the statehouse on July 1 mimics language from the federal PACT Act, which we also pushed for and which was signed into law last year. While the federal law allows prosecutors to bring federal felony charges when these acts occur within federal jurisdiction or when animals are moved across state lines, or the internet is used as part of a criminal enterprise, a state law is needed to prosecute those who commit violent acts against animals on Mississippi soil.

The bill that passed in the state increases the penalty for egregious animal abuse such as torture and intentional starvation from a misdemeanor to a felony, and prohibits ownership of dogs and cats for a period set by the court after conviction. It also addresses an oddity in the law that allows the defendant to be charged with just one misdemeanor no matter how many animals were abused.

We applaud Mississippi lawmakers for passing the bill, and we urge the governor to sign it into law. We are especially grateful to Mississippi state Sen. Angela Hill for her dedication to sponsor the bill year after year, and Sen. Brice Wiggins, Rep. Jill Ford, and Speaker Phillip Gunn for supporting and promoting its passage. A strong law against animal torture doesn’t just protect animals; it protects people of the state as well. We now know that violent behavior toward animals has been continuously linked with other forms of criminal violence, including child abuse and domestic violence, making it all the more important to catch and stop those who commit acts of animal abuse early.

The Iowa law, signed on June 29, provides much-needed upgrades to the state’s animal cruelty law, including requiring outdoor shelter, grooming and veterinary care for dogs. Puppy mill owners with a previous conviction for animal cruelty would face a felony penalty for abuse or neglect if the act causes serious injury or leads to the animal dying.

The law, which passed despite strong opposition from the American Kennel Club and puppy mill operators, including some who appear on the HSUS Horrible Hundred list, also strikes nonsensical language in a previous law that allowed charges to be filed only if a person committed abuse against an animal owned by another person and exempted owners from charges when they abused their own animals.

While these changes will certainly improve the quality of life for animals in Iowa, we are saddened that the Iowa General Assembly missed an opportunity to join the rest of the country in making the torture of companion animals an automatic felony. Language that would have done so was included in the original bill, but lawmakers beholden to Iowa’s agriculture industry pressured their colleagues to strip it from the bill. Most Iowans support such a law, and a Remington Research poll in December 2019 showed 69% of Iowans believe domestic animal torture should be a felony charge.

Iowa is now a glaring outlier in our nation where the justice system and all levels of government have, just in the past five years, made tremendous progress in recognizing the link between human and animal cruelty. In addition to the PACT Act becoming law last year, the FBI has added animal cruelty as a separate category in the National Incident Based Reporting System, classifying it as a crime against society, the same category as rape and murder. The National Sheriffs Association created its first Animal Cruelty Committee and houses the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse, ensuring that the country’s law enforcement community has the best knowledge and resources at its disposal to combat animal cruelty. The Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team, made up of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and National Counterterrorism Center, determined in July 2018 that premeditated animal cruelty is a possible warning sign for terrorism.

We congratulate Iowa on strengthening protections for animals, and we now urge lawmakers there to quickly pass a bill joining the rest of the nation in making animal cruelty an automatic felony. By ensuring that the worst acts of animal torture do not go unpunished, they would not just make their state more humane for its animals, but they would also be ensuring the long-term safety of their citizens.

Breaking news: Nation’s top science panel recommends VA should stop most research on dogs

By on July 1, 2020 with 3 Comments
Breaking news: Nation’s top science panel recommends VA should stop most research on dogs

Three years ago, Americans were stunned to learn that puppies and adult dogs were being subjected to gruesome surgeries, induced heart attacks and other invasive procedures, and then being euthanized, as part of taxpayer-funded medical experiments being carried out at the McGuire Medical Center in . . . 

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Breaking news: U.S. House passes major infrastructure package with key provisions for wildlife corridors, horse transport

By on July 1, 2020 with 1 Comment
Breaking news: U.S. House passes major infrastructure package with key provisions for wildlife corridors, horse transport

The U.S. House has just approved provisions that would make highways safer for wildlife to cross and create safer conditions to transport horses across the country, as part of the Moving Forward Act, a package of reforms designed to restore America’s aging infrastructure. The measures . . . 

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Breaking news: Colorado becomes seventh U.S. state to ban cages for egg-laying hens

By on July 1, 2020 with 6 Comments
Breaking news: Colorado becomes seventh U.S. state to ban cages for egg-laying hens

Colorado has just banned cages for egg-laying chickens and will require that eggs produced and sold in the state be cage-free. The bill, which passed both chambers of the state legislature in June, was signed moments ago by Gov. Jared Polis. The new law will . . . 

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Taking humane summer camps online

By on June 30, 2020 with 1 Comment
Taking humane summer camps online

Like most parents in this strange moment, I’ve spent the last few months watching my daughter complete her senior year and graduation ceremony largely online. This summer she had planned to work as a camp counselor to earn spending money for college but the camp, . . . 

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Putting an end to lion trophy hunting in memory of Cecil

By on June 29, 2020 with 6 Comments
Putting an end to lion trophy hunting in memory of Cecil

The killing of Cecil the lion five years this week ago by an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe triggered worldwide outrage. Father of a pride, lured with an elephant carcass, wounded by an arrow, he suffered for hours before being killed by gunshot. As it . . . 

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HSI brings much-needed food, medical help to companion animals affected by pandemic around the world

By on June 26, 2020 with 1 Comment
HSI brings much-needed food, medical help to companion animals affected by pandemic around the world

The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on companion animals around the world. Shelters and rescues in many countries are seeing an increase in abandoned dogs and cats or have had to remove animals from homes and localities where people have become sick or . . . 

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Key Congressional committee holds hearing on bill that restricts keeping primates as pets

By on June 25, 2020 with 2 Comments
Key Congressional committee holds hearing on bill that restricts keeping primates as pets

In Arizona, a woman’s marmoset monkey attacked her newborn grandchild, scratching and biting the baby’s face and splitting open one nostril. In New York, a neighbor’s pet capuchin monkey bit off a 22-month-old girl’s finger when the child stuck her fingers through a backyard fence. . . . 

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Breaking news: Dutch parliament votes to permanently close mink fur farms

By on June 24, 2020 with 3 Comments
Breaking news: Dutch parliament votes to permanently close mink fur farms

The Dutch parliament has voted to permanently shut down an estimated 128 mink fur farms in the wake of coronavirus outbreaks on 17 of these farms since April. If approved by the Dutch government, the decision would bring a welcome end to the cruel business . . . 

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Tragedy highlights Canada’s puppy mills problem

By on June 23, 2020 with 9 Comments
Tragedy highlights Canada’s puppy mills problem

A tragic story from Canada underscores the vast, global scale of the puppy mill problem, and how important it is that we root it out wherever it exists. On June 13th, a Ukraine International Airlines flight carrying approximately 500 puppies, including at least 200 French . . . 

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Scotland bans fish farmers from shooting seals; law inspired by U.S. reforms for marine mammals

By on June 22, 2020 with 1 Comment
Scotland bans fish farmers from shooting seals; law inspired by U.S. reforms for marine mammals

For years, Scotland has allowed fish farmers and other fisheries to shoot seals in order to keep them from eating their fish —a brutal practice that has resulted in so much unnecessary suffering and death among these charismatic marine mammals. Last week, in a long-awaited . . . 

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Legislation making it safer for wildlife to cross highways and mandating reforms for horse transport moves to full House for vote

By on June 22, 2020 with 5 Comments
Legislation making it safer for wildlife to cross highways and mandating reforms for horse transport moves to full House for vote

A key House committee has approved a package of investments in America’s infrastructure, including provisions to make U.S. roadways safer for both drivers and wildlife and to create more humane conditions for transporting horses within the country. The INVEST in America Act package, H.R. 2, . . . 

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