Rep. Bill Pigott, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Credit: Gil Ford Photography

A slew of bills aiming to enhance the punishment for abusing cats and dogs in Mississippi died in committee Tuesday.

One bill in the Senate and two bills in the House of Representatives were each double referred by the leadership to their respective Agriculture and Judiciary committees, making chance of action less likely. None were brought forward by committee chairmen.

All three bills would have made aggravated abuse of dogs and cats a first-offense felony. Currently, conviction of abuse of cats and dogs in Mississippi is a misdemeanor.

In addition, law enforcement is only allowed to bring one count of simple or aggravated animal cruelty, regardless of the number of dogs or cats abused in the incident.

Tuesday was the deadline for bills to pass out of committee.

House Agriculture Chairman Rep. Bill Pigott, R-Tylertown, said he agrees with Farm Bureau, which has lobbied against any animal protection laws, that he would first like to see current laws enforced.

“Law enforcement in a lot of counties don’t have the manpower to enforce them, they don’t have the money to enforce the laws we got today,” he said on Tuesday.

He also said a conflict in scheduling meetings contributed to the bills not being taken up in committee.

“It’s just one of those things,” Pigott said.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Billy Hudson, R-Hattiesburg, also did not bring up a bill authored by Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune. This is Hill’s third session to bring forward such a bill.

Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairmen have ties to Farm Bureau. Pigott is former president of the Walthall County Farm Bureau. Farm Bureau commended both Pigott and Hudson for their roles in helping to defeat animal welfare legislation in 2016.

Kate Royals

Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.