House Unanimously Passes Bill Making Animal Cruelty A Federal Crime

by Julie Scagell
Justin Veenema/Unsplash

If passed, the PACT bill will be one of only a handful of federal laws protecting animals

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill yesterday making certain types of animal cruelty a federal felony.

The bill, titled the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, will make it a federal crime for “any person to intentionally engage in animal crushing if the animals or animal crushing is in, substantially affects, or uses a means or facility of, interstate or foreign commerce,” according to a fact sheet of the bill, ABC News reported. It also states a person can be prosecuted for burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling animals, and sexually exploiting them. There are provisions for hunting.

The bill expands on a bill passed in 2010 called the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which made the creation and distribution of “animal crushing” videos illegal, but not the acts themselves. The Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth defines animal crushing as “the act of torturing animals which is brutally committed in numerous ways,” and often involves small live animals such as “kittens, puppies, bunnies, and mice.” Examples are videos featuring “women in high heels stepping on small animals and crushing them…a puppy being burned alive. A cat being nailed to the floor.”

“This bill sends a clear message that our society does not accept cruelty against animals. We’ve received support from so many Americans from across the country and across the political spectrum,” Rep. Ted Deutch, D-FL said in a statement. He and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, co-sponsored the bill. “I’m deeply thankful for all of the advocates who helped us pass this bill, and I look forward to the Senate’s swift passage and the President’s signature.” Buchanan added, “The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

There are a handful of federal animal protection laws in existence today, like the Animal Welfare Act and the Humane Slaughter Act, but most animal protection legislation happens at the state level. In states where animal cruelty is considered only a misdemeanor, people who intentionally commit cruelty crimes against animals can receive, at most, one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. PACT will be limited to “interstate commerce and federal property” and won’t interfere with local animal cruelty laws.

Sara Amundson, the president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, expressed her gratitude over the bill’s signing. “Over the course of 30 years in animal protection, I have encountered terrible animal cruelties, but acts of intentional torture are the most disturbing because they demonstrate how some people treat the most vulnerable in our society,” Amundson said in a statement. “These malicious acts deserve federal scrutiny and action. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials will finally have the tools they need to bring those responsible for cruelty to animals to justice.”