UPDATE (3/3/2022)

In a heart-breaking and nonsensical move, SB 2261 — a proposed Mississippi bill that would have required counseling and intervention services for youth who enter the judicial system for torturing domestic animals — died in committee. The legislation sailed unopposed through the Senate on Feb. 9 but died Tuesday, March 1, when the House Judiciary B Committee declined to pass the bill on to the floor for a vote, according to The Clarksdale Press Register.

We are deeply saddened by this development — for both the innocent animals who will continue to be tortured, and the youth who now have one less gateway into needed services that could redirect them away from a life of crime.  We hope that the sponsors and legislators of this life-saving legislation continue the fight, and we will also do all we can to raise awareness and help animals everywhere.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Following a nerve-wracking stall, a new Mississippi bill that could save the lives of both innocent animals and troubled youth has passed into committee.

SB 2261, known as “Buddy’s Law” and sponsored by Sen. Angela Burks Hill, would require youth who come into the juvenile court system for intentionally torturing domesticated dogs or cats to undergo psychological evaluation and also participate in counseling and treatment for a length of time prescribed by youth court.

The hope is that an early intervention could provide needed services and rehabilitation, and also prevent future acts of violence and prison time as the children become adults, Hill said. 

“If we can get them the medical evaluation that they need and some type of treatment and counseling, hopefully, they would not progress on as a teenager and then later be charged as an adult,” Hill told WLBT.

The bill is named after Buddy, an innocent family dog who was found with his face nearly burned off and an electrical cord wrapped around his neck after he was attacked by his owner’s child, who admitted to intentionally harming the dog to Tate County Sheriff deputies in 2021. 

Because of the child’s age, no criminal charges were pursued. Someone over the age of 13 who committed the same act could have been punished by up to three years in prison, according to the Tate County Sheriff’s Office.

The legislation was held up by deliberations but has since passed on to the Judiciary B committee, where In Defense of Animals (IDA), an animal welfare nonprofit, is among those pushing for passage.

“Statistically, violent criminals, repeat offenders, start out with animals because they’re the most vulnerable,” said Doll Stanley, IDA’s Justice for Animals campaign director.  “We must have something in our justice system that addresses the need for helping children, before the age of 13, when they could be prosecuted and incarcerated.”

Buddy’s injuries were so severe that he has spent the last 10 months recovering at Mississippi State University’s veterinary school.  In a celebratory Facebook post, the Tunica Humane Society reported he has recovered to the point where he can be fostered by Betsy Swanson – the doctor whose skill and passion helped him recover.

“It just seems right Dr. Swanson would be the one to open her heart and home to Buddy,” the humane society wrote in their post on Feb. 15. “Today, Buddy stepped back into life and a kinder, gentler world awaits him.”

Throughout the entire ordeal, they added that Buddy “never lost his joy for life.”

“Through all the pain and suffering he endured, he taught us to never give up and never give in,” the post continues. “We have celebrated every obstacle he has conquered along the way. His courage and determination to survive has inspired us all.”

If passed as written, the bill would become effective July 1, although Hill has told media she hopes to possibly have the changes made immediately upon passage. 

Buddy the dog in recovery