2007 Regular Session
To: Judiciary, Division B
By: Senator(s) Hewes, Gollott
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTIONS 97-41-1 AND 97-41-2, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO ESTABLISH MINIMUM GUIDELINES FOR THE CARE AND TREATMENT OF DOMESTICATED ANIMALS; TO DELETE CERTAIN AMBIGUOUS REFERENCES; TO REVISE THE PROCESS BY WHICH AN ANIMAL MAY BE LAWFULLY SEIZED; TO CREATE A DEFINITION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS; TO ESTABLISH A PENALTY FOR VIOLATION OF THE STATUTE; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 97-41-1, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
97-41-1. (1) If any person shall knowingly or with criminal negligence receive any contribution, donation or income for the care of any animal or not provide for the animal, or shall override, overdrive, overload, * * * torment, unjustifiably injure, deprive of necessary sustenance, food or drink; or cruelly beat * * *; or cause or procure to be overridden, overdriven, overloaded, * * * unjustifiably injured, tormented, or deprived of necessary sustenance, food or drink; or to be cruelly beaten * * * or killed, any domesticated animal, every such offender shall, for every offense, be guilty of cruelty to animals, which shall be punished as a misdemeanor.
(2) If any person shall knowingly torture, mutilate, maim, burn, poison, or maliciously starves, disfigures or kills any animal, the offender shall, for every offense, be guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals, a felony punishable by a fine of not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections not to exceed five (5) years, or both.
SECTION 2. Section 97-41-2, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
97-41-2. (1) All courts in the State of Mississippi may order the seizure of an animal by a law enforcement agency, for its care and protection upon a finding of probable cause to believe said animal is being cruelly treated, neglected or abandoned. Such probable cause may be established upon sworn testimony of any person who has witnessed the condition of said animal. The court may appoint an animal control agency, agent of an animal shelter organization, veterinarian or other person as temporary custodian for the said animal, pending final disposition of the animal pursuant to this section. Such temporary custodian shall directly contract and be responsible for any care rendered to such animal, and may make arrangements for such care as may be necessary. Upon seizure of an animal, the law enforcement agency responsible for removal of the animal shall serve notice upon the owner of the animal, if possible, and shall also post prominently a notice to the owner or custodian to inform such person that the animal has been seized. Such process and notice shall contain a description of the animal seized, the date seized, the name of the law enforcement agency seizing the animal, the name of the temporary custodian, if known at the time, and shall include a copy of the order of the court authorizing the seizure.
(2) Within five (5) days of seizure of an animal, the owner of the animal may request a hearing in the court ordering the animal to be seized to determine whether the owner is able to provide adequately for the animal and is fit to have custody of the animal. The court shall hold such hearing within fourteen (14) days of receiving such request. The hearing shall be concluded and the court order entered thereon within twenty-one (21) days after the hearing is commenced. Upon requesting a hearing, the owner shall have three (3) business days to post a bond or security with the court clerk in an amount determined by the court to be sufficient to repay all reasonable costs sufficient to provide for the animal's care. Failure to post such bond within three (3) days shall result in forfeiture of the animal to the court. If the temporary custodian has custody of the animal upon the expiration of the bond or security, the animal shall be forfeited to the court unless the court orders otherwise.
(3) In determining the owner's fitness to have custody of an animal, the court may consider, among other matters:
(a) Testimony from law enforcement officers, animal control officers, animal protection officials, and other witnesses as to the condition the animal was kept in by its owner or custodian.
(b) Testimony and evidence as to the type and amount of care provided to the animal by its owner or custodian.
(c) Expert testimony as to the proper and reasonable care of the same type of animal.
(d) Testimony from any witnesses as to prior treatment or condition of this or other animals in the same custody.
(e) Violations of laws relating to animal cruelty that the owner or custodian has been convicted of prior to the hearing.
(f) Any other evidence the court considers to be material or relevant.
(4) Upon proof of costs incurred as a result of the animal's seizure, including, but not limited to, animal medical and boarding, the court may order that the animal's owner reimburse the temporary custodian for such costs. A lien for authorized expenses is hereby created upon all animals seized under this section, and shall have priority to any other lien on such animal.
(5) If the court finds the owner or established caregiver of the animal or animals is unable or unfit to adequately provide for the animal or animals, or that such person has received monetary donations, staples, or other income for the relief of the animals and has not provided the intended care for the animals, or that the animal is severely injured, diseased, or suffering, and, therefore, not likely to recover, the court may order that the person or persons responsible for the maltreatment will be charged with the crime of cruelty to animals and be bound over to the grand jury; and that the animal be permanently forfeited and released to an animal control agency, animal protection organization or to the appropriate entity to be euthanized or the court may order that such animal be sold at public sale in the manner now provided for judicial sales; any proceeds from such sale shall go first toward the payment of expenses and costs relating to the care and treatment of such animal, and any excess amount shall be paid to the owner of the animal.
(6) Upon notice and hearing as provided in this section, or as a part of any preceding conducted under the terms of this section, the court may order that other animals in the custody of the owner that were not seized be surrendered and further enjoin the owner from having custody of other animals in the future.
(7) If the court determines the owner is able to provide adequately for, and have custody of, the animal, the court shall order the animal be claimed and removed by the owner within seven (7) days after the date of the order.
(8) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent or otherwise interfere with a law enforcement officer's authority to seize an animal as evidence or require court action for the taking into custody and making proper disposition of animals as authorized in Sections 21-19-9 and 41-53-11.
(9) For the purposes of this section, the term "animal" or "animals" means any feline, exotic animal, canine, horse, mule, jack or jennet.
(10) (a) For any conviction under this section, the court may order restitution to the animal's owner as well as to law enforcement agencies or animal control or humane societies for the costs of investigation, sheltering, transporting, rehabilitation and other costs related to securing the conviction.
(b) A person convicted under this section may be enjoined from possessing an animal or animals or residing or working where animals are kept.
(c) A person convicted under this section, in addition to any other punishment that may be imposed, may be ordered to perform community service, to participate in professional counseling, or both.
(11) Nothing in the section shall be construed to prohibit lawful hunting activities or trapping of wildlife, herding of domestic animals, accepted animal husbandry practices, accepted veterinary practices, or activities carried on for scientific or medical research governed by accepted standards.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2007.