House Re-Introduces Sweeping Anti-Cruelty Legislation

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When it comes to supporting legislation opposing animal cruelty, the political divide between “red” and “blue” in the U.S. completely dissolves.

Last week, Florida congressmen Vern Buchanan (R) and Ted Deutch (D) of the House Judiciary Committee re-introduced a bill that would make animal cruelty a felony punishable by fines and up to seven years in prison. Under the bill, “cruelty” encompasses both physical and sexual abuse.

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, H.R. 1494, would empower U.S. attorneys and the FBI to prosecute animal abuse cases that cross state lines, affect interstate commerce or occur on federal property.

“The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Rep. Buchanan tweeted last week.

Currently, federal law prohibits animal fighting and criminalizes animal cruelty, but only if the perpetrator(s) make video recordings of their heinous acts and sell them. PACT effectively closes loopholes in the federal Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010 which criminalized the creation and/or distribution of horrifying and obscene videos of live animals being tortured and killed, but neglected to criminalize the vile acts behind them.

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

The U.S. Senate passed this vital legislation last year, but the House did not take up the companion bill, despite garnering more than 250 co-sponsors. PACT is endorsed by the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Association for Prosecuting Attorneys.

With the passage of PACT, anti-cruelty laws on the books in all 50 states would be backed by federal muscle. However, the bill may also invite clashes between federal law and local jurisdictions. Some are concerned, for example, that if someone violates local ordinances against tethering or not providing adequate shelter for a companion animal left outdoors, that person could possibly be charged with a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor.

H.R. 1494 has received wide and enthusiastic support, but animal advocates acknowledge a downside. An abused animal would have to remain, as evidence, in the custody of a shelter while the criminal case is prosecuted. This process could delay the adoption of a deserving companion for months.

As consolation, if H.R. 1494 passes, perpetrators will be confined far longer for their crimes than their victims should ever be for their innocence.

Please contact your elected officials and urge them to support the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, H.R., 1494.