A bill making animal cruelty a federal offense is about to become federal law.
The bill, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, expands on a 2010 law protecting animals subjected to “crush videos,” where small animals are seen crushed to death by faceless women in high heels. But the animal rights activists criticized the 2010 law for failing to criminalize the acts of animal cruelty depicted in the videos, rather than just the videos themselves.
The new bill, the PACT Act, passed Congress unanimously, and President Trump is expected to sign it. It goes further than the 2010 law by directly banning animal cruelty, including crushing, drowning, suffocating, sexually exploiting, stabbing, or burning animals. Violators can be punished with fines, felony charges, and up to seven years in prison.
Until now, the treatment of animals has largely been regulated at the state level. The Animal Welfare Act, passed in 1966, is the only federal law on the books regulating the treatment of animals and it only sets a minimum standard.
The bill doesn’t apply to industries long targeted by animal rights activists, including meat production and scientific research. Still, Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said it’s a victory for animal rights because it increases the likelihood that abuse would be punished by allowing federal law enforcement to get involved.
“We have anti-cruelty legislation statues on the books in all 50 states, but states can only prosecute so many cases, which is why we are interested in getting PACT into law and allowing federal authorities to work on cases,” said Amundson, adding that the bill would finally allow federal law enforcement to prosecute animal abuse crimes that were facilitated over the internet, across state lines, or on federal property.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals echoed the sentiment: “We strongly support this federal action aimed at preventing animals from being brutally tortured and killed, and we hope the PACT Act is swiftly signed into law,” said ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker in an emailed statement.
The bill was introduced by two Florida members of Congress, Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan and Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch and had 301 cosponsors. It was endorsed by both the National Sheriffs Association and the Humane Society of the United States.
The bill is meant to stop cruelty to animals — with some big exceptions
Animal rights are increasingly coming to the fore through trends like meatless meats, activism against the use of animals in tourist attractions, and fur sales bans that even have support from the Queen of England.
“Poll after poll shows that when you bring animal welfare issues to voters or share with them who the humane candidates are, there is significant interest,” said Amundson, citing the example of the overwhelming support for the Texas ballot initiative to allow retired police dogs to remain with their handlers.
Amundson also cited the retirement of Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Goodlatte blocked previous iterations of the bill coming to the floor, although it passed twice unanimously in the Senate.
While the legislation shores up protection for animals, there are several exceptions baked into the bill. Hunting for sustenance, euthanasia, scientific research, and necessary action to protect human life or property number among the exceptions.
AJ Albrecht, senior policy adviser and counsel for Mercy for Animals, a group focused on eliminating animal suffering, described the bill as “incremental change.”
“The exceptions encapsulate all the animals that we here at Mercy for Animals advocate for,” said Albrecht, adding that hunted and farmed animals are afforded “very, very few” protections under the bill.
Instead, she said, she’d rather see legislation that includes poultry in the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which require cows, pigs, and other food animals to be stunned before execution, regulations making clear that plant-based products can be labeled with terms like “meat” and “milk,” and legislation that affords agricultural whistleblowers protections when they inform on cruel farming practices.
Still, animal rights activists agree that the PACT Act is a step forward and that its odds of becoming law are good — even if not all creatures are protected equally.
Sign up for the Future Perfect newsletter. Twice a week, you’ll get a roundup of ideas and solutions for tackling our biggest challenges: improving public health, decreasing human and animal suffering, easing catastrophic risks, and — to put it simply — getting better at doing good.
The post A bill on President Trump’s desk would make animal cruelty a federal crime appeared first on Vox.