By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
On the heels of last week’s animal cruelty case in Chickasaw County where three dogs allegedly starved to death, Tupelo-Lee Humane Society Director Debbie Hood talked to the Daily Journal’s Emily Le Coz about the state law against such abuse. Mississippi earlier this year made it a felony to abuse cats and dogs on the second offense.
Q: What kind of animal abuse cases do you see most frequently?
A: Probably neglect, not providing the proper food, water and shelter. We average about three cases a week. Some of the worst I’ve seen mostly involve matted dogs left outside on the chain. Their hair was so matted it was pulling their skin apart. We’ve seen several starved animals. I don’t think people realize the amount of care that’s involved with an animal. You don’t need to put it out in your backyard and forget about it. If you have a pet, you need to be responsible for providing that animal food, water and a proper shelter. If you can’t do those three things, you don’t need to own a pet.
Q: What should people do if they see a case of animal abuse?
A: You report it to the animal shelter if it’s in the city limits. If you don’t have an animal shelter in your area, you have to file an affidavit against the pet owner with the local sheriff’s or police department so they can investigate. But a lot of people are afraid to do that; they’re afraid of retaliation. But the poor animal is suffering in the meantime.
When we go out, we make contact with the owners and find out what’s going on. If it’s a case of neglect, we offer to take the animal in. If they don’t want to surrender the animal, we go back in five days. If there’s no improvement, we issue a ticket. If the animal is in severe distress, we take pictures to a judge and get a seizure warrant to take the animal. Most of the ones that we see, though, the people will take better care of their pets. Maybe 10 percent are surrendered to us.
Q: The state passed a stricter law against animal cruelty making the second offense a felony. Has that helped reduce these cases?
A: It’s a great help for any animal control officer or sheriff’s department that needs to prosecute. We can actually go in and help these animals. A judge has to issue those seizure orders first, but at least there’s a law he can go by.