In-Depth: Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to criminalize animal crushing:
“This is commonsense, bipartisan legislation to bring some compassion to our animal laws. For many Americans, animal welfare is an important policy issue, and the idea of animal abuse is abhorrent. By building on state and local laws, Congress should act to guarantee a level of protection for animals across the country by criminalizing these inhumane acts. We've acted in the past to stop the horrific trend of animal abuse videos; now it's time to make the underlying acts of cruelty a crime as well."
Original cosponsor Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) added:
“The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Protecting animals from cruelty is a top priority for me and I look forward to working with Congressman Deutch on this important issue.”
The Humane Society supports this bill. Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, says:
“Decades ago[,] the Federal Bureau of Investigation recognized the seriousness of animal cruelty and its link to escalating violence toward humans. All 50 states have felony provisions for animal cruelty and so a parallel federal statute is long overdue to crack down and fill gaps in the law. Representatives Deutch and Buchanan are tremendous advocates for animal protection, and we are grateful to them for seeking to eradicate malicious cruelty.”
Amundson adds that a federal statute is needed to ensure that interstate animal cruelty is punished:
“[S]tates cannot prohibit cruelty that occurs in interstate commerce or across state lines. We need to ensure that we have a federal anti-cruelty statute to prevent such horrid conduct… [This] bill provides law enforcement with the tools it needs to crack down on egregious animal cruelty on federal property or in interstate commerce. Animal cruelty isn’t self-contained by state but moves across state lines, so this bill is critical to stomping out crime. It’s supported by law enforcement, prosecuting attorneys and the Humane Society Legislative Fund.”
Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States and Executive Vice President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, says:
“It’s past due for the federal government to enact a strong anti-cruelty law, to complement the state laws against malicious mistreatment of animals. We know that there is a correlation between vicious cruelty to animals and violence against humans… Our nation should have a zero tolerance policy for violence against innocent animals.”
The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) contends that this bill protects not just animals, but also humans, from acts of violence due to the link between cruelty to animals and other forms of violence:
“Preventing and punishing [animal] cruelty is both an animal welfare and a public health imperative. More and more, the law enforcement and legal communities recognize that animal cruelty is both a serious crime in and of itself and a precursor or gateway to other violent crimes… By providing law enforcement and the criminal justice system with another tool for responding to such unspeakable acts of animal cruelty, the PACT Act protects our communities from many forms of violence.”
This bill has 181 bipartisan cosponsors, including 137 Democrats and 44 Republicans. Last Congress, it was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) with the support of 283 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 183 Democrats and 100 Republicans. However, former Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) kept it from coming to the floor for a vote. Since Rep. Goodlatte is no longer in Congress, supporters of this bill are more optimistic about its odds of House passage in the current Congress. Last Congress, this bill’s Senate companion (S.654), sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), passed the Senate unanimously with the support of 36 bipartisan cosponsors, including 33 Democrats, three Republicans, and one Independent.
This bill has the support of the Humane Society of the United States, National Sheriffs Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Humane Farming Association, and over 200 law enforcement agencies across the U.S.
Of Note: “Animal crush videos” are videos in which individuals kill, mutilate, and torture small animals as a form of entertainment to be shared online. While Congress prohibited the creation and dissemination of these videos under the 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, the underlying acts themselves remain legal under federal law.
Currently, all 50 states have laws on the books criminalizing animal cruelty on the state level. However, when animals being tortured cross state lines, individual states’ jurisdictions end, making it impossible for state prosecutors to bring charges. This bill would allow authorities to go after wrongdoers with federal jurisdiction.
Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) notes that it can be difficult to prosecute animal cruelty under state law due to jurisdictional issues:
“[The Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act] was a crucial step to take. However, that law does not cover the underlying acts of animal cruelty themselves, which are generally offenses under state law subject to prosecution by the states. However, since it isn’t always known where the actual acts of cruelty took place, it can be hard to bring a case under state law.”
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Cylonphoto)