Puppy Mill bust brings cry for tougher animal cruelty laws - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Puppy Mill bust brings cry for tougher animal cruelty laws


In the wake of Monday's puppy mill bust in Walthal County many Mississippi animal advocates are calling for tougher animal cruelty laws in the state. Advocates believe stiffer penalties would go a long way toward putting an end to puppy mills like this one.

For many of the participants in the rescue, it was the worst case of animal cruelty and neglect they had seen. More than 100 dogs, both dead and alive, were found in deplorable conditions in small cages and plywood boxes. Many of the decomposing bodies and skeletal remains were left in the enclosures with the live dogs.

The living animals were rescued and were taken to the Humane Society of South Mississippi where they are being cared for.

Officials said the owner of the puppy mill, James Thornhill of Bush La., is facing misdemeanor animal cruelty charges.

"It's time for the people of Mississippi to stand up," said Katherine Sammons, Founder, Mississippi Animal Advocacy Group. "If we have a public outcry in these cases, maybe we can deter anyone else who may be thinking of starting a puppy mill or back yard breeding operation."

According to the Humane Society of the United States Mississippi ranks 49th in the nation in animal protection laws and in 2012 the state score dropped another 20 percent.

District 41 State Joey Fillingane says he too was outraged by the events of Monday, but he believes the legislature has been making progress to improve the laws in the last few years. He says they do have to be careful they don't change the laws in a way that they hurt local industry.

"PETA and groups like that are always trying to say if it's okay for a dog to be protected, then why not then catfish and catfish farmers, the chicken and the poultry farmer," said Fillingane. "We have those counter forces that we have to weigh and balance."

In 2011 the legislature passed the Dog and Cat Protection Act making it a felony for a second act of cruelty. Malicious intent is also a felony. This year a cock fighting and gas chamber failed to get passed.

"Just doing wholesale changes to our animal cruelty laws can become tedious and touchy," said Fillingane. "We have been trying over the last couple of years and I think we have made some good progress. clearly not enough in some instances like this puppy mill."

Sammons says she has seen some progress, but it's not where near enough.

"We've got a great State Director that works with the HSUS. We've got great supporters in the community. We've got great pet owners, a lot of shelters and rescues such a as ours. All want to step up to the plate and fight for tougher laws in Mississippi. We've come a long way, but we have a long way to go."

Currently Mississippi has no law governing the licensing or inspecting of puppy mills. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering a rule that would require large scale operations like this one be federally licensed and inspected.

Link to HSUS video of Monday's puppy mill bust. 3:20 long, riveting and sad.



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