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Buddy's Law and It's Impact on Mississippi Animal Protection Laws

Casey Erwin

Buddy's inspirational story and how it inspired Mississippi legislators to take action!

When it comes to animal protection laws, Mississippi, unfortunately, falls below the national standard. There are a multitude of reasons for this being the case, but with the latest animal protection law, named “Buddy’s Law,” Mississippi is moving in the right direction. In April of 2021, Buddy was discovered with an extension cord around his neck and with severe burns. After a child confessed to the police about doing this horrific act, it brought rage to many. Since the child was under the age of 12, he could not be charged with the crime. Buddy’s horrendous condition gained national attention, according to Meghan Overdeep with Southern Living. Thankfully, the Tunica Humane Society was able
to help Buddy. After receiving extensive treatment, including 10 months of skin grafting, Buddy made a
full recovery. Dr. Elizabeth Swanson, the veterinarian who helped save him, eventually adopted him.

Via Facebook, Tunica Humane Society
Buddy’s experience was so impactful Mississippi legislatures became inspired to take action. Senator Angela Burks Hill is one of the Mississippi legislatures that has worked hard to make sure Buddy’s Law went into effect. The goal of Buddy’s Law is to make sure children receive psychiatric and counseling treatment if they abuse a domestic animal.

Buddy’s Law is an amendment to Section 97-14-16 of the Mississippi Code Annotated. However, it was unable to pass through the legislature on its own. Oddly enough, Buddy’s Law was able to be signed into Law by attaching to an amendment that revised the sentencing of voyeurism crimes, amending Section 97-29-16 of the Mississippi Code of 1972. By attaching it to Senate Bill 2245, it was able to be signed into Law.

The amendment reads as follows:

“(1) This section shall be known and may be cited as "Buddy's Law."
(2) When a child is adjudicated delinquent of an offense involving the intentional torturing, mutilating, maiming, burning, starving to death, crushing, disfiguring, drowning, suffocating or impaling of a domesticated dog or cat as described in Section 97-14-16, the youth court shall order that the child adjudicated delinquent receives a psychiatric evaluation and counseling or treatment for a length of time as prescribed by the youth court. The cost of any evaluation, counseling and treatment shall be paid by the offender's parent or guardian, or by the state if the offender is a ward of the state, upon order of the youth court, up to a maximum amount that is no more than the jurisdictional limit of the sentencing court. The youth court shall hold the offender's parent or guardian in contempt under Section 43-21-509 if the parent or guardian willfully does not follow the recommended treatment for the offender.
(3) The Legislature does recognize that animal abuse by a child often leads to further criminal activity by the child as he or she ages. This activity is sometimes homicidal; however, it is the Legislature's intent that a mental health evaluation under this section is only required in extreme situations as prescribed in Section 97-14-16. Further, it is the intent of the Legislature that a minor offense of abuse of a cat or dog by a child shall not require a mental health evaluation unless the judge, after a hearing, shall determine if the evaluation is necessary.” (2022 Bill Text MS S.B. 2245).

ALDF Co-Presidents, Jordan Rogan and Casey Erwin with Senator Hill
Senate Bill 2245 was signed by Governor Reeves, allowing Buddy’s Law to take effect in July 2022. Buddy’s Law is a step in the right direction for Mississippi animal protection laws. While it may be a slow process, this Law gives hope that more can be done to protect animals within Mississippi.

Being Co-President of the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), I was given the opportunity to go to the Capitol. I had hopes of discussing Buddy’s Law with a few of the legislatures that made it happen. I was able to meet Senator Angela Burks Hill, and she was so excited to talk about Buddy’s Law. She explained that she had worked hard to put animal protection laws in place for years. Senator Hill, Dr. Swanson, and Buddy have been invited to campus by the Animal Legal Defense Fund to discuss their experience later this semester. Keep an eye out for more information about meeting Senator Hill and Buddy at MC Law soon!

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