The House has unanimously passed a bill that makes animal cruelty a federal felony.
The PACT Act, which stands for Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture, was approved by the House on Tuesday. The bipartisan act, introduced by Florida congressmen Ted Deutch and Vern Buchanan, would revise a previous law passed in 2010.
"The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law," Buchanan said. "Passing the PACT Act sends a strong message that this behavior will not be tolerated."
The measure must next pass the Senate, which has not scheduled a vote on it.
Currently, federal law only explicitly prohibits animal fighting and only criminalizes wrongdoers when they create and sell videos depicting the actual animal cruelty.
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The PACT Act would allow authorities to go after the wrongdoers because they will have federal jurisdiction and will not be bound by state laws. They can also prosecute criminals if the cruelty occurs on federal property.
Under the act, a person can be prosecuted for crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, and impaling animals and sexually exploiting them.
The legislation contains exceptions for hunting.
Those convicted would face federal felony charges, fines and up to seven years in prison.
"These malicious acts deserve federal scrutiny and action. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials will finally have the tools they need to bring those responsible for cruelty to animals to justice," Humane Society Legislative Fund President Sara Amundson said.
The bill has been endorsed by the National Sheriffs Association and the Fraternal Order of Police.
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