Congress passes PACT Act making severe animal cruelty a federal offense

dvm360dvm360 December 2019
Volume 50
Issue 12

Crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling, sexual exploitation now named specifically as felonies.

U.S. Congress

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Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the Senate's passage of the bill.

The U.S. Senate passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act on Nov. 5 following the House's vote Oct. 22, making some of the most egregious forms of animal cruelty a federal crime.

Although it is already illegal to promote animal fighting and distribute so-called “crush videos,” most animal cruelty laws are enacted at the state level, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). The PACT Act creates a corresponding federal animal cruelty statute.

In “crush” videos, people torture, crush and kill small animals, such as puppies and hamsters, for the titillation of viewers, the ALDF notes. The Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act banned these torture videos in 2010, “but the PACT Act goes a step further and bans the underlying animal cruelty contained in them.”

AVMA President John Howe, DVM, says passage of the PACT Act is an important step toward improving animal welfare. “Thanks to the bipartisan work of lawmakers and animal welfare advocates, we're one step closer to finally criminalizing the cruel and inhumane act of animal crushing,” he says in an AVMA release. “We're looking forward to seeing President Trump sign this bill into law.”

Dr. Howe notes that the legislation provides key safeguards to ensure enforcement targets bad actors without incidentally ensnaring farmers and ranchers, hunters, researchers or other groups.

Robin Ganzert, PhD, president and CEO of American Humane, says her organization is also pleased to see Congress acting on animal abuse. “Those convicted would face felonies, fines and up to seven years in prison,” Ganzert says in a statement from American Humane. “We support this important and long-overdue legislation.”

The bill has been sent to the White House to be signed by President Trump. 

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