Animal Abuse Including 'Crushing' and 'Burning' Is Now a Federal Felony

Photo: EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP (Getty)

Heinous and intentional acts of violence against animals are now a federal crime under a new bill that was signed into law this week.

The bipartisan Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, introduced in the House in January, builds on an existing law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 that prohibits “animal crush videos” or digital media depicting intentional violence against any non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians. The new law now federally prohibits the actual acts of violence against animals themselves, including intentional crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impalement, or other acts that subject those animals to “serious bodily injury.” The PACT Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Monday.

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Under the PACT Act, the penalty for intentional cruelty to animals is now punishable by a fine, up to seven years imprisonment, or both. The bill passed unanimously in the House last month before passing with unanimous support in the Senate in early November—indicating that sadistic animal torture, at the very least, is one thing we can all agree is bad.

The bill was initially introduced earlier this year by Florida Congressmen Vern Buchanan, a Republican, and Ted Deutch, a Democratic, who noted the legal loopholes created by violent acts against animals being prohibited at the state and local levels but not at the federal one. In a statement at the time, Deutch said that lawmakers had “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.”

“We can now finally say that animal abuse is a federal crime in the United States,” Deutch said in a statement this week. “Americans have long stood in support of animal welfare protections, and now our national laws reflect these values. This bipartisan achievement has been years in the making, and I am proud to have been a part of this great effort alongside Congressman Buchanan and so many advocates and passionate citizens who made this possible.”

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Animal rights organizations this week roundly commended the federal prohibition on animal torture, with Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, calling it “a statement about American values.”

“The approval of this measure by the Congress and the president marks a new era in the codification of kindness to animals within federal law,” Block added. “For decades, a national anti-cruelty law was a dream for animal protectionists. Today, it is a reality.”

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In a statement to Gizmodo by email, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also praised the new law.

“We strongly support the PACT Act, an important new federal law aimed specifically at preventing animals from being brutally tortured and killed, and are thankful for its swift enactment,” ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker said. “We thank Senators Pat Toomey and Richard Blumenthal and Representatives Ted Deutch and Vern Buchanan for their steadfast leadership on this and other critical animal welfare issues.”

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