JACKSON, Miss. (WMC) – A new Mississippi law is strengthening animal rights advocates’ fight against animal cruelty in the Magnolia State.
“Buddy’s Law,” or Amendment no. 1 of HB 1065, was signed into law by Governor Tate Reeves Thursday afternoon, which would require mandatory counseling sessions for both adults and juveniles who intentionally inflict harm on domestic animals.
“From the very start, we wanted ‘Buddy’s Law,’” said Sandy Williams, Founder and Executive Director of the Tunica Humane Society. “It was our goal for something positive to come out of this horrific event.”
In April of 2021, Buddy was burned by a juvenile in Tate County.
Upon further investigation, a juvenile confessed to the act of animal cruelty.
Buddy was given emergency treatment by Williams and her team at Tunica Humane Society, before being sent to Mississippi State University’s Veterinary Science Center for 10 months.
“(Buddy’s) injuries were so horrific, and people were outraged at what had happened to him,” Williams said. “When it came to light that it was a child that had committed the crime, it just kind of took it to a whole different level.”
The law would require juveniles to receive counseling sessions for a time determined by the Youth Court.
For adults found guilty of the crime, counseling sessions will also be required.
On top of counseling, mandatory community service will be performed, “applicable to maximum term of imprisonment that may be imposed for conviction of the offense.”
Criminals will also be forbidden to possess a domestic animal or work and/or live in a business/household where a domestic animal is present “for any period of time not exceeding five years from the date of sentencing, or any period of time not exceeding fifteen years from the date of sentencing if the conviction involved four (4) or more counts of simple cruelty.”
“If they were underage, there were just no repercussions. This isn’t only about what happened to Buddy; it’s about a very troubled child. And so, now it will be mandated when something like this happens that they get the mental help that they need,” Williams said.
“The earlier we can intervene and make a difference, the better the child is going to be, development-wise,” said State Senator David Parker.
Parker is one of a group of legislators who drafted the “Buddy’s Law” amendment.
The proposed law was pronounced dead in March, missing a deadline to be presented before the House Judiciary Committee.
“We were able to take another bill, actually a couple of bills, and added amendments to keep the language for ‘Buddy’s Law’ alive,” Parker said. “By doing that, one of those two bills passed in the end.”
“It takes years to change laws,” Williams said. “This happened pretty quick, so people are passionate about this issue. People are passionate about Buddy. People are passionate about children that are troubled.”
As far as Buddy, who was present at the signing of the law bearing his name, he is now being fostered by his MSU doctor, Dr. Elizabeth Swanson.
As Williams puts it, he’s ‘a happy, robust, energetic lab.’
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