Today, our federal legislative priorities gained even sharper focus with the introduction of the Senate version of the Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, advanced by U.S. Senators Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. This bill, introduced in the U.S. House as H.R. 2293 by Representatives Lamar Smith, R-Tex., Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., seeks to outlaw a heinous form of animal abuse known as “crushing,” where deranged individuals maim and torture animals. If enacted, it will become our nation’s federal anti-cruelty statute.
For years, The HSUS has worked with lawmakers to strengthen the legal framework against malicious cruelty. Since 2002, we’ve upgraded the federal animal fighting law four times, with Senator Blumenthal and Congressman Marino authoring the latest upgrade – the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act – and working with other lawmakers to make it a federal crime to attend or bring a minor to a dogfight or cockfight.
In 2010, we worked to make it a crime to sell videos depicting animal crushing, after the Supreme Court earlier that year struck down the original law enacted in 1999 banning sales of videos depicting animal cruelty. Former Congressman Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., then-Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Senators Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., worked with our HSUS and HSLF team to get that new bill introduced and enacted quickly by Congress. It’s since been upheld as constitutional by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. (The federal animal fighting law has also been upheld by a series of federal court rulings, after cockfighters challenged the law.)
Now 50 states make malicious forms of cruelty a felony – up from just four states in the mid-1980s, as we went state by state and South Dakota adopted the latest statute in 2014. So it’s time for Congress to deal with particularly malicious and deviant acts of cruelty on federal property or that cross state lines. Under the PACT Act, those convicted of such abuse will face federal felony charges, fines, and up to seven years in prison.
“There is absolutely no place for the crushing of animals in our society,” said Sen. Toomey. “It is blatantly inhumane and astonishingly cruel. I can’t believe this isn’t already against the law, and I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to end this abhorrent practice.”
“Crushing an animal — maiming and torturing it to death — is heinously inhumane and must be illegal,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “Videos are currently prohibited, but doing it is unpunishable under federal law. In 2010, Congress passed legislation criminalizing the creation and distribution of videos showing animals being crushed, drowned, burned and suffocated, but it unfortunately allowed the people who actually inflict barbaric harm on animals to walk free. This bipartisan bill – the first to outlaw animal cruelty at the federal level – states emphatically that these heinous acts are inhumane, illegal and intolerable in a civilized society. It is appalling that without this legislation, these outrageous acts go unpunished.”
Malicious cruelty is shameful, abhorrent conduct, and perpetrators should never get a free pass from the federal government. We already have federal laws against dogfighting and cockfighting, and a wide range of other animal crimes with an interstate component. It’s time to close the gap in our federal laws on matters of extreme cruelty.