House unanimously passes bill making animal cruelty a federal felony

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The House voted unanimously Tuesday to pass the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, which expands a prior law that criminalized the creation and distribution of “obscene” videos of animal abuse. The law, however, did not prohibit acts of violence toward animals itself.

If passed by the Senate and signed by President Trump, the bill will outlaw purposeful crushing, burning, drowning, suffocation, impalement or other violence causing “serious bodily injury” to animals. Violations could result in a fine as well as up to seven years’ imprisonment.

The bi-partisan bill was introduced Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla – a companion bill was also introduced in the Senate.

Animal rights groups such as the ASPCA praised the passage of the act.

“With the House passage of the PACT Act, we are one step closer to a federal law protecting animals from one of the most brutal acts of cruelty, and we thank Representatives Ted Deutch and Vern Buchanan for introducing this bill as well as their continued leadership on animal protection,” said Richard Patch, ASPCA’s vice president of federal affairs, in a statement to USA TODAY.

The PACT Act expands on 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which deemed the creation and distribution of ‘animal crushing’ videos illegal. These acts, which were not included in the 2010 bill, are part of the new legislation.

The term ‘animal crushing’ is defined in the bill text as ‘actual conduct in which one or more living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians is purposely crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury,’ as per The Hill.

The new legislation also makes it illegal 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,’ as ABC News reports.

Buchanan said of the bill: ‘The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.’

However, ‘hunting, trapping, fishing, a sporting activity not otherwise prohibited by federal law’ are exempt from the bill, as well as cases where it would be ‘necessary to protect the life or property of a person’.

In a statement, Deutch called the bill’s passage ‘a significant milestone in the bipartisan quest to end animal abuse and protect our pets.’

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. Animal rights activists have stood up for living things that do not have a voice.

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.

Sara Amundson, the president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, also applauded the bill.