DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - How tough is tough enough? Mississippi tightened its animal cruelty laws in April, making crimes against cats and dogs a felony.
The state was one of only four in the country where animal abuse wasn't a felony, but after eight months no one has been charged under the new law.
"I can see where it could be overlooked," says Lt. Mark Little with Southaven Police Department. "Because the old one is still in effect basically. The education needs to get out."
Animal advocates called the law a big step in the right direction, but no one in the state has been prosecuted under it. Little thinks that could be because officers are still learning the ins and outs.
"Sometimes laws are passed and there's not a foolproof way of the new laws trickling down to people who utilize them," he tells abc24.com.
The law applies to dogs and cats. Anyone caught deliberately torturing animals faces aggravated cruelty charges.
A first offense is a misdeamenar carrying a fine of up to $2,500 and six months in jail. A second offense doubles the fine and a possible prison term of five years. It's also a felony.
Amy Stewart's an animal control officer in Southaven, who's seen the abuse first hand.
"Animals being starved in backyards. I have seen one or two cases of that, but there wasn't a whole lot we could do at that point in time because of the laws," Stewart says.
She's only dealt with a handful of those cases, but says having a law like this would have helped.
"If the new law would have been in effect, then we might have been able to hold them more responsible for their actions," she says.
"I think where we'll get abusers' attention is they'll have a felony on their record," says Little. "They're not going to be able to do certain things they once enjoyed doing. It's a good thing the state took the law that far."