The House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that would make animal cruelty a federal felony.
On Tuesday, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act was approved by the House and will serve as a revision to an existing law that was passed in 2010.
Under previous regulations, federal law prohibited only animal fighting and the production and distribution of videos featuring animal cruelty, rather than acts of cruelty in and of themselves. However, the new restrictions will make it easier to prosecute those engaged in acts of animal cruelty outside of fighting practices.
“Over the course of 30 years in animal protection, I have encountered terrible animal cruelties, but acts of intentional torture are the most disturbing because they demonstrate how some people treat the most vulnerable in our society,” Humane Society Legislative Fund President Sara Amundson said in a statement.
“These malicious acts deserve federal scrutiny and action. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials will finally have the tools they need to bring those responsible for cruelty to animals to justice.”
“Most people are shocked to know that the U.S. does not have a federal animal cruelty law,” Animal Wellness Foundation Director of Federal Affairs Holly Gann added.
The PACT Act, which will enable law officers to pursue perpetrators without the limits of state laws, is much more inclusive in the kind of behavior that qualifies as cruelty than the current law. Actions prohibited include drowning, suffocating, burning, crushing and impaling animals.
Those convicted under the new law would be charged with a federal felony and face up to seven years in prison, KSAZ-TV reported.
“The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” one of the two representatives who introduced the bill, Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan, said.
His collaborator, Rep. Ted Deutch, added, “Today’s vote is a significant milestone in the bipartisan quest to end animal abuse and protect our pets.”
According to USA Today, the measure passed unanimously, in the House.
“This bill sends a clear message that our society does not accept cruelty against animals,” Deutch said in a statement.
“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.”
The Orlando Sentinel reported that the Senate unanimously passed the PACT Act twice in the past.
The bill earned 284 bipartisan House co-sponsors and over 200 law enforcement endorsements during previous attempts for approval. During both prior movements, the bill was blocked in the House by former Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, who is no longer a member of Congress.
The odds for approval look promising, therefore, as the bill prepares to go to the Senate.
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