Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Make Extreme Animal Cruelty A Federal Felony

Two lawmakers are seeking to strengthen animal cruelty laws by making some of the most extreme animal cruelty acts a federal offense if committed on federal land or in connection with interstate commerce.

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act was reintroduced last week by Reps. Vern Buchanan (R) and Ted Deutch (D), both of Florida, in an effort to close loopholes in animal cruelty law.

The bill would target people who intentionally crush, burn, drown, suffocate, impale or sexually exploit animals or otherwise subject them to serious bodily harm.

“The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Buchanan said in a statement. “Protecting animals from cruelty is a top priority for me and I look forward to working with Congressman Deutch on this important issue.”

Currently, all 50 states prohibit malicious acts of animal cruelty as felony offenses, which can be prosecuted by the states where they are caught. But the new law specifically gives federal prosecutors the ability to pursue charges against those who commit abuses in national parks or on military bases, reserves or any other federal lands. The same goes for animal cruelty when it involves abused animals crossing state lines, said Tracie Letterman, the vice president of federal affairs for the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

“Federal prosecutors are saying that there is no legal recourse when there’s a crime on federal property,” she told HuffPost. “This is a common-sense measure.”

The PACT Act would amend the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010, a federal law that outlaws the creation and distribution of so-called animal crush videos ― which show animals being killed, mutilated or tortured ― so that the abuse shown in the videos is a federal crime as well.

Federal prosecutors are saying that there is no legal recourse when there’s a crime on federal property.
Tracie Letterman, Humane Society Legislative Fund

“It’s talking about extreme animal cruelty. It’s not kicking a puppy. We’re talking about serious bodily injury,” Letterman said of the targeted abuse.

Those suspected of committing such crimes would face federal felony charges, fines and up to seven years in prison. The legislation includes exceptions for hunting, normal veterinary care and conduct needed to protect life or property from a serious animal threat.

Bestiality remains legal in a handful of states, though if PACT becomes law, Letterman said such acts could be considered illegal if they are committed on federal property or have an interstate component ― such as acquiring animals across state lines for the purpose of sexual exploitation or organizing bestiality gatherings through online forums.

PACT bills passed the Senate twice in recent years but were blocked on the House floor by the Judiciary Committee chairman at the time, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). He has since retired, giving animal activists and supporting lawmakers hope that this time it will become law.

As of Tuesday, the bill has received 155 co-sponsors, as well as endorsements from the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the National Sheriffs Association and the Fraternal Order of Police, according to Buchanan’s office.

“They’re very supportive of this bill,” Letterman said of law enforcement officers and federal prosecutors, “because then it could give them the tools to crack down on these kinds of people.”

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