In a rare bipartisan effort that took several years to come to fruition, The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, also known as PACT, was signed by President Trump on November 25th, 2019. This, as a result, made animal cruelty in its various forms a Federal crime, something longtime animal activists have been calling for.
Animal cruelty is already banned in all 50 states. Still, animal activists have wanted a Federal law banning this act in order to ensure increased protection for animals across the country and to fill critical gaps in the national law. Activists also said that, because there was no Federal law banning animal cruelty, cases that crossed state lines were hard to prosecute, meaning many offenders have gone free. “This should help clarify jurisdiction and prosecution in interstate cases,” says criminal defense attorney John S. Berry Jr. of Berry Law Firm.“ However, the scope and effect of this Act have yet to be seen.”
Furthermore, the act will allow for broader federal action as it permits federal enforcement against animal cruelty, which will benefit states who may lack the resources or authority to tackle such issues. Through this expansion of the Federal government’s power, perpetrators may now face both state and federal charges of animal cruelty.
It took a handful of Republican and Democratic Representatives and Senators to make this bipartisan effort come to pass. These members included Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., House Representatives, and Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa. Sen. Blumenthal, D-Conn, publicly stated how pleased he was with the law being signed by President Trump, saying the barbaric torture of animals should never be accepted in a civilized society and should always be a crime.
The Federal law is quite concise when it comes to animal torture, ensuring that all types of animal abuse and mishandling are a crime under this new law. This means that the intentional crushing of an animal, burning, drowning, suffocating, or impaling a living nonhuman mammal or bird, reptile or amphibian is illegal.
Additionally, “animal crush videos” are also banned. Such media include videos, photos, and other digital recordings that portray animal cruelty that is now criminalized under the PACT Act. Animal crush videos were given their name after videos of small creatures being stomped on by a person emerged online. The PACT Act helps to considerably build upon the 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act that originally targeted animal crush videos.
If someone is prosecuted for animal torture under this new law, they could be sent to prison for up to seven years, fined, or both. This law has also been endorsed by both the Human Society of America and the Fraternal Order of Police, who released a statement saying they supported the bill because they believe those who commit extreme animal cruelty are prone to being violent towards people. The CEO of the Human Society, Kitty Block, also released a statement, saying the new law is a reflection of American values.
While the act is an advancement in stopping animal cruelty, there are possible loopholes. For instance, the act only criminalizes acts of cruelty that cause the animals “serious bodily harm,” which means that acts that cause less than critical injury to animals are technically not outlawed. Hence, a person may be mistreating an animal, but if it does not meet the law’s definition of cruelty and “serious bodily harm” they cannot be charged.