THE BLOG

Breaking News: Key Lawmakers Propose Federal Anti-Cruelty Measure

05/14/2015 10:39 am ET | Updated May 14, 2016

A group of senior Republicans and Democrats, including key members of the House Judiciary Committee, have introduced the nation's first-ever general federal animal cruelty bill, the Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture Act. The PACT Act (H.R. 2293) would empower the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Attorneys to prosecute animal abuse cases that cross state lines. For example, it would empower federal prosecutors to pursue the intentional abuse of an animal in a car traveling on an interstate highway, in a federal facility, or in a business selling pets across state lines.

Former House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and senior Judiciary Committee member Ted Deutch (D-Florida), along with committee member and former U.S. Attorney Tom Marino (R-Pennsylvania) and Congressional Animal Protection Caucus leader Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), are leading the bill. They were joined today by staunch conservatives and senior committee members Trent Franks (R-Arizona) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio); another former U.S. Attorney, Patrick Meehan (R-Pennsylvania); and animal protection leaders and senior committee members Jerold Nadler (D-New York) and Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee).

Last year, the FBI began its work with local law enforcement to track animal abuse incidents in its Uniform Crime Report for the first time ever, in recognition of the severity of these crimes. The information collected on the animal abuse incidents will help law enforcement prioritize resources for combatting these crimes.

While there is no federal anti-cruelty statute, the federal government has already put a stake in the ground on animal cruelty issues and worked to complement state law forbidding animal cruelty with federal statutes. There is a federal law that prohibits the trade in obscene "crush" videos, but there's no penalty for the underlying acts of abuse if no video is ever created. The PACT Act would patch that gap by allowing for the criminal prosecution of puppy mill operators and others who intentionally drown, suffocate, or otherwise heinously abuse their animals.

Over the last three decades, we've gone state by state to make malicious animal cruelty a felony in every state. (Just four states treated animal cruelty as a felony when we began in the mid-1980s). This Act is necessary to fortify that legal framework, equipping federal prosecutors to intervene when animal cruelty extends beyond the reach, ability, or will of state prosecutors to stop it. This is similar to the legal framework on animal fighting. Every state has laws against animal fighting, but the federal government has a strong statute as well that allows it to intervene in cases where warranted, especially when people involved in an enterprise are involved from multiple states or across state lines.

The FBI enforces over 90 federal crimes -- from bank robbery and kidnapping to credit card fraud and sports bribery -- but currently lacks the authority to pursue extreme cases of animal abuse. It's long past time that Congress lets the FBI and U.S. Attorneys pursue animal abusers -- especially given the well-documented link between animal abuse and other violent crimes.

Please take action today to urge your representative to cosponsor the PACT Act. This tightening of our legal framework makes good sense, and it is good policy. People who engage in malicious acts of cruelty to animals are a threat to us all in society, and when their crimes are brought to light, they must be brought to justice.

This blog post first appeared on Wayne Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.