Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Make Animal Cruelty a Nationwide Felony

If the bill passes, those convicted could face up to seven years in prison. 

Carly Sitzer - Author

Jul. 9 2019, Updated 5:28 p.m. ET

animal abuse bill

Lawmakers out of Florida are introducing a new bill that will make animal cruelty a felony nationwide. Reps. Ted Deutch and Vern Buchanan — a democrat and a republican, respectively — are behind the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, which targets “crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, and impaling animals.”

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If the law passes, those found guilty of such acts of violence against animals could face up to seven years in prison.

“The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Rep. Buchanan said to the Orlando Sentinel of the bill. His partner said the effort is “commonsense, bipartisan legislation to bring some compassion to our animal laws.”

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The congressmen have noted that there have been other bills in the past that address the abuse against animals on both the state and federal levels — most notably, a 2010 law aimed at stopping punishing those who create videos that show animals being subjected to torture — but the lawmakers behind the PACT Act believe that those laws aren’t comprehensive enough. 

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Rep. Deutch added, “We’ve acted in the past to stop the horrific trend of animal abuse videos. Now it’s time to make the underlying acts of cruelty a crime as well.”

This isn’t the first time the PACT Act has been introduced to lawmakers; it was previously passed by the U.S. Senate, unanimously, on two separate occasions and earned more than 200 law enforcement endorsements in the previous session of Congress. However, in the House, it was blocked from coming to the floor by former Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, who is no longer serving in Congress.

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The Humane Society applauded the new introduction, and hoped it would eliminate the loophole caused by former legislation that made it only illegal when video was being recorded. Despite the failure of the PACT Act to become a reality in the past, Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, told the Sentinel that she’s optimistic the bill will pass this time — and is likely to reduce other types of crime. 

“Decades ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation recognized the seriousness of animal cruelty and its link to escalating violence toward humans,” she explained. 

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The bill will include some exceptions for normal veterinary care, hunting and conduct necessary to protect life or property from a serious threat caused by an animal.

The Animal Welfare Institute also endorsed the PACT Act, explaining that the issue isn’t just one of animal welfare — but also of public safety. They particularly celebrated the inclusion of “animal crushing” videos as a punishable offense, explaining, “In so-called ‘crush videos,’ individuals viciously torture, mutilate, and kill small animals to satisfy the bizarre fetishes of the viewer. In 2010, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, banning the creation and distribution of these videos. This was a crucial step to take. However, that law does not cover the underlying acts of animal cruelty themselves, which are generally offenses under state law subject to prosecution by the states. However, since it isn’t always known where the actual acts of cruelty took place, it can be hard to bring a case under state law.”

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As they explained, the PACT Act would properly define “animal crushing,” as well ban the creation and distribution of these videos, and make them eligible for felony charges, fines, and potential prison time. 

For those hoping to advocate for the bill, the Humane Society created a template to reach out to your representative and show your support for the bill and its passage. 

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