A group of senior Republican and Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee reintroduced the nation’s first-ever general federal animal cruelty bill – the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, H.R. 1494. Sponsored by Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the PACT Act would empower the FBI and U.S. Attorneys to prosecute animal abuse cases that cross state lines, affect interstate commerce, or occur on federal property. The bill was introduced with 11 other original cosponsors: Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, Tom Marino, R-Pa., Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, Trent Franks, R-Ariz., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.

All 50 states have felony penalties for malicious cruelty to animals. This legislation would complement the states’ anti-cruelty laws in the same way that the federal animal fighting statute complements the 50 state animal fighting laws, providing an additional tool to be employed when extreme animal cruelty occurs on federal property or otherwise in interstate commerce.

The PACT Act closes a loophole in the federal Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010, which already prohibits the trade in obscene “crush” videos that show the intentional crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling, or other heinous abuse of live animals, but does not prohibit the underlying acts of abuse if no video is created. The PACT Act would close that gap by allowing for the criminal prosecution of those same extreme acts of animal cruelty when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether a video is produced. The bill has been endorsed by more than 200 sheriffs and police departments in 36 states and national groups including the National Sheriffs’ Association, Fraternal Order of Police, and Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

The Senate passed this common sense legislation last year, but the House did not take up the companion measure, despite the bill having attracted more than 250 cosponsors.

“It’s long past time that Congress empowers the FBI and U.S. Attorneys to deal with malicious and deviant cruelty on federal property or that crosses state lines,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “We know there is a well-documented link between animal abuse and other forms of violent behavior, and this legislation is a tool to combat this violence when we get a first look at it.”

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