Animal cruelty is now a federal crime according to a bill that President Trump recently signed into law. While all 50 States that criminalized animal abuse to some degree, federal law previously had no such equivalent that targeted animal abuse and torture. The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act or PACT Act specifically targets some forms of animal abuse, including crashing, burning, and drowning animals. Federal officials also now have the authority to go after individuals accused of this crime who cross State lines and in other situations involving federal jurisdiction. The move also funnels additional much-needed resources into investigations of animal cruelty. Under the terms of the PACT Act, animal cruelty is punishable by up to seven years in federal prison and fines.
The bill is particularly important for the District of Columbia, where there is a great deal of federal property and where animal cruelty more easily crosses State boundaries. Previously, there was no federal jurisdiction to prosecute those crimes.
The PACT Act also closes a previous loophole in federal law. The Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act criminalized making and distributing videos depicting animal cruelty, but it did not penalize the acts on the video. Now, the actions are a crime, regardless as to whether the accused persons memorialized it through video. The National Sheriff’s Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, and various national animal welfare groups endorsed the bill, along with many others.
The bill expressly does not apply to people who slaughter animals for food. It also does not apply to people who hunt or trap animals or fish.
Abuse of animals often accompanies violence against people. One study found that up to 40% of animal abusers also had committed crimes of violence against humans. With the ability to pursue those involved in incidences of animal cruelty, advocates hope that similar abuse against humans will become more preventable.
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