Some legislators, including Democratic Sen. Bob Dearing of Natchez, have tried for several years to strengthen the state laws against the torture and maiming of dogs and cats, only to see bills pass the Senate and die in the House.
Dearing and others say they'll try again in 2011.
Changing the law won't be easy because some lawmakers have said in debates that it's none of the government's business if a man wants to kick or shoot his own dog.
Also, many in the House and Senate are scared to anger the politically powerful Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, which has about 205,000 member families. The group wasn't solely responsible for killing the animal anticruelty bills in the past, but it played the biggest part.
In his final speech as federation president in early December, David Waide told Farm Bureau members that an animal welfare bill would be the biggest challenge the group faces in the coming year. He warned that "radicals" are pushing the bills.
"I know there's not a person in this room that doesn't agree that we need to protect animals," Waide told about 600 people at a meeting in Jackson's Hilton hotel. "But I also believe there's not a person in this room that believes that animals should have rights.
"That's what the radicals that are pushing this agenda want. They want to destroy meat animal production so that we all become vegetarian. When they get that done, they're going to start working on the vegetarian side so that we have to depend on imported food," he said. "We, as Farm Bureau members, can't allow that to happen."
Dearing, in an interview this past week, told The Associated Press that he's no radical.
"That galls me," Dearing said after being told what Waide had said, even though Waide didn't name names.
Dearing said the bills he has sponsored are only about cats and dogs. He said livestock production would not be affected.
"He knows that," Dearing said of Waide. "If he doesn't know that, he ought to be ashamed."
A national group, the San Francisco-based Animal Legal Defense Fund, said this past week that Mississippi is one of the "five best states in the country to be an animal abuser." The others were Kentucky, North Dakota, Idaho and Iowa.
The group said in a news release: "Among other weaknesses in its animal protection laws, Mississippi has no felony provisions for animal cruelty, neglect or abandonment, inadequate reporting provisions for suspected animal abuse, no mental health evaluations or counseling for offenders, and inadequate animal fighting provisions."
In 2010, a bill to strengthen Mississippi's penalties for the abuse of cats and dogs passed the Senate with bipartisan support.
The House Agriculture Committee never considered the bill, and the measure died. That angered the dozen or so people from around the state who had worked steadily on the bill because they said they wanted to protect the pets that provide happiness and companionship.
Dearing said that during this past summer, House Agriculture chairman, Democrat Greg Ward of Ripley, invited him to take part in hearings about animal cruelty. Dearing said that based on their conversations, he's optimistic Ward will allow the House Agriculture Committee to at least debate a bill in 2011.