Mississippi sheriff wants to charge juvenile in animal cruelty case, can’t because of state law

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TATE COUNTY, Miss. — A horrific animal cruelty case in North Mississippi is causing national outrage.

WREG first told you about “Buddy” the dog last week, when he was tortured and burned in Tate County. Sheriff Brad Lance says a juvenile confessed to hurting the animal, but the child won’t face any legal consequences because of a state law that prohibits anyone under the age of 13 from being charged with a crime.

“It would be a felony if this was an adult,” Lance said, “Our hands are tied.”

In fact, Lance says he reached out to one state lawmaker hoping to get the statute changed during the next legislative session. In the meantime, Lance is fielding hundreds of calls, emails and Facebook messages from frustrated people, not only in Tate County but across the country.

“A lot of the messages are what should happen to this juvenile or what needs to happen to this juvenile,” Lance said.

He says his deputies are also investigating a possible threat to the child after someone offered a reward on social media for the identity of the juvenile’s family. 

“You know, emotions run high but nothing warrants, nothing should warrant . . . that’s beyond the scope,” Lance said.

Deputies say Buddy, a Labrador Retriever, was found along Peavine Road with an electrical cord tied around his neck and severe burns to his body. He’s currently at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State for around the clock care. 

“Hopefully, he makes a full recovery,” Lance said.

Lance says state agencies like Child Protective Services can get involved in these kinds of situations, but it’s unclear if that’s happened in this case. 

“There needs to be some mechanism in our juvenile law that triggers some form of accountability,” Lance said.

Sadly, we’re told Buddy’s owner surrendered his dog and told authorities he didn’t have the means to pay for his medical care.

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