By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, H.R. 724, by a voice vote. The measure would establish a federal anti-cruelty statute to protect animals.
The legislation has been heavily lobbied and supported by members of the Animal Wellness Foundation and Animal Wellness Action team for years.
Currently, federal law only explicitly prohibits animal fighting, and only criminalizes wrongdoers when they create and sell videos depicting the actual animal cruelty.
Under the PACT act, a person can be prosecuted for crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, and impaling animals, as well as sexually exploiting them.
The bipartisan bill, introduced by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), and Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), passed the Senate in 2016 and again in 2017.
“Today’s vote is a significant milestone in the bipartisan quest to end animal abuse and protect our pets,” said U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch. “This bill sends a clear message that our society does not accept cruelty against animals. We’ve received support from so many Americans from across the country and across the political spectrum.
“Animal rights activists have stood up for living things that do not have a voice,” Deutch added. “Law enforcement officers have sought a federal overlay to help them stop animal abusers who are likely to commit acts of violence against people. And animal lovers everywhere know this is simply the right thing to do. I’m deeply thankful for all of the advocates who helped us pass this bill, and I look forward to the Senate’s swift passage and the President’s signature.”
“Most people are shocked to know that the U.S. does not have a federal animal cruelty law,” said Holly Gann, Director of Federal Affairs at Animal Wellness Action and the Animal Wellness Foundation. “Enacting this bill sends a signal that our nation has no tolerance for intentional cruelty toward animals.”
Former Oklahoma Attorney General, Drew Edmondson was instrumental in helping move the legislation through the House with the support of the new Animal Wellness National Law Enforcement Council, which he co-chairs.
“A society should be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable,” Edmondson said. “Prevention of animal cruelty and torture will help define us as a society and it is altogether fitting that Congress make this a national priority.
“The PACT Act complements state and territorial anti-cruelty laws, just as the federal government’s ban on staged animal fighting fortifies state-based anti-dogfighting and anti-cockfighting laws,” Edmondson added. “We have a moral duty to show mercy toward all of God’s creatures,” Edmondson said.
Edmondson played a major role in preserving Oklahoma’s 2002 ban on cockfighting.
The National Law Enforcement Council includes a number of prosecutors who have distinguished themselves in their public advocacy and continue to advocate for safer communities for people and animals.
Law enforcement agencies including the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Fraternal Order of Police have endorsed the PACT Act because of the well-documented connection between animal cruelty and violence against people, including the correlation between sexual abuse of animals and children.U.S. House passes PACT Act to make animal cruelty a federal felony
Patrick Yoes, National President, Fraternal Order of Police stated, “Our animal friends and companions do not deserve to be tortured and killed for the amusement of sick and twisted individuals and we support the effort to criminalize these activities,”
While current federal law bans the sale of videos showing illegal acts of cruelty, it does not prohibit the underlying conduct.
“The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Rep. Buchanan. “Passing the PACT Act sends a strong message that this behavior will not be tolerated. Protecting animals from cruelty is a top priority for me and I will continue to work with Congressman Deutch to get this important bill signed into law.”
Under the act, a person can be prosecuted for crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, and impaling animals and sexually exploiting them. Those convicted would face federal felony charges, fines and up to seven years in prison.
“These malicious acts deserve federal scrutiny and action,” Humane Society Legislative Fund President Sara Amundson told CNN. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials will finally have the tools they need to bring those responsible for cruelty to animals to justice.”
Led by U.S. Senators. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) along with 38 cosponsors, the Senate companion bill, (S. 479), was previously passed in the Senate by unanimous consent in the 114th and 115th Congress. However, it was blocked in the House by former House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) despite overwhelming bipartisan support.
The current chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerold Nadler (D-NY), is a cosponsor of the legislation.
The PACT Act obtained 290 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, which utilized the new House “Consensus Calendar” to help get a debate and vote on the House floor.
The Animal Wellness Foundation is a Los Angeles-based private charitable organization with a mission of helping animals by making veterinary care available to everyone with a pet, regardless of economic ability.
The measure must next pass in the Senate, which has not scheduled a vote on it.