People.com Lifestyle Pets Mississippi's New Animal Cruelty Law Celebrated by Activists for Holding Abusers Accountable Under the new law, signed by Governor Tate Reeves in early July, animal abusers will be charged with a felony on their first offense of aggravated cruelty By Kelli Bender Kelli Bender Kelli Bender is the Pets Editor for PEOPLE Digital and PEOPLE magazine. She has been with the PEOPLE brand for more than eight years, working as a writer/producer across PEOPLE's Lifestyle, Features, and Entertainment verticals before taking on her current role. Kelli is also an editor on PEOPLE's Stories to Make You Smile and serves as an editorial lead on PEOPLE's World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest and Pet Product Awards. Before joining PEOPLE, Kelli helped AOL and Whalerock launch a pet lifestyle site called PawNation. She is a pet parent to a cat named Wallace, and her professional and personal devotion to animals has taken her to three dog weddings ... so far. People Editorial Guidelines Published on July 13, 2020 05:46 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Getty Images Mississippi, once criticized for animal protection laws that allowed animal abusers to get a " slap on the wrist for some of the most heinous acts of cruelty imaginable," is being celebrated for its new animal cruelty law. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed Senate Bill No. 2658, introduced by Sen. Angela Hill, into law at the start of July, reports WCBI. Under this new legislation, animal abusers will be charged with a felony on their first offense of aggravated cruelty. Additionally, they will face a count of felony aggravated cruelty for each animal harmed. "For too long, criminals have been getting away with a slap on the wrist for some of the most heinous acts of cruelty imaginable," Doll Stanley, In Defense of Animals' Justice for Animals campaign director, said in a statement. "Now Mississippi finally has an animal cruelty law with teeth that gives law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges the authority to hold animal abusers accountable for their unspeakable acts of cruelty." The new legislation also doubles the penalties for a second felony offense, with second-time offenders now facing up to $10,000 in fines and/or up to 10 years in prison. Joaquin Phoenix Attends Vigil for Animal Rights Activist After She Died Outside a Slaughterhouse Before SB 2658, the Mississippi Dog and Cat Protection Law of 2011 only charged abusers with a felony if they committed a second offense within five years of a first conviction. The statute also only allowed a single charge of cruelty, regardless of how many dogs or cats were involved in an incident. Siem Reap Becomes First Cambodian Province to Ban the Sale and Consumption of Dog Meat "This is a monumental and much-needed change to the state’s animal protection laws," Stanley added. "The link between animal cruelty and other criminal activity is well established. This new law will protect both animals and citizens throughout Mississippi, and bring justice for innocent victims. We are grateful to Sen. Hill for her determination to see this bill passed, to lawmakers who supported it, and to Gov. Reeves for signing it."