Time for the United States to Enact a Federal Anti-Cruelty Statute

By on February 8, 2016 with 6 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

In May 2015, in Temecula, California, a U.S. Marine couple living at Camp Pendleton were accused of shattering their dog’s legs and binding his mouth with rubber bands for days. In a case like this the state can prosecute under its anti-cruelty statute, but given that the practice occurred on a U.S. military installation, it might give local prosecutors pause. That’s precisely why Congress should enact the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act.

Where abuse occurs on federal property, or in cases that span multiple states or other territorial jurisdictions, a federal anti-cruelty statute would allow a crackdown on cruelty. Fortunately, there’s momentum building for just such a measure in Congress. Introduced by Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Senators Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., H.R. 2293 and S. 1831 have attracted as cosponsors a majority of the U.S. House and nearly a third of the Senate. The measure would allow federal law enforcement agencies to bring a case against people perpetrating the most malicious forms of cruelty with a federal dimension.

Five years ago, Congress passed the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, prohibiting the trade in obscene video depictions of animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other forms of heinous cruelty. The law is valuable but limited in scope, and while it bans the trade in video depictions of cruelty, it does not prohibit the underlying conduct of the cruelty itself. A federal ban would help not only animals, but potential human victims as well.

There are a raft of studies to indicate the link between the abuse of animals and violence against people:

  • Of 36 convicted multiple murderers questioned in one study, 46 percent admitted committing acts of animal torture as adolescents.
  • Of seven school shootings that took place across the country between 1997 and 2001, all involved boys who had previously committed acts of animal cruelty.
  • A 2002 study found that 96 percent of juveniles who had sexual conduct with animals also admitted to sex offenses against humans.
The National Sheriffs’ Association backs the PACT Act, along with more than 150 law enforcement agencies across the country. Above, NSA Chief John Thompson with his dog, Mr. Po

The National Sheriffs’ Association backs the PACT Act, along with more than 150 law enforcement agencies across the country. Above, NSA Deputy Executive Director John Thompson with his dog, Mr. Po

The National Children’s Advocacy Center, a non-profit that combats child abuse and neglect, endorses The PACT Act. The National Sheriffs’ Association also backs the legislation, along with more than 150 law enforcement agencies across the country. And just last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began including animal cruelty offenses in the Uniform Crime Report.

The nation is waking up to cruelty as an indicator of a social pathology. First offenders typically start on animals, then turn their violent instincts to people. While all states have laws against dogfighting and cockfighting, Congress saw fit to pass a federal anti-animal fighting statute for complex cases involving multiple jurisdictions. The state and federal laws are complementary, and we propose a similar set-up for anti-cruelty statutes targeting the most malicious types of abuse.

Congress should act on this legislation now. There’s no excuse for a delay. As a society, we have an unspoken pact with vulnerable creatures to protect them from needless and malicious violence, and the PACT Act is part of any good plan to act on that principle.

Help pass the PACT Act »

Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Doris Muller says:

    It’s extremely painful to know that the vicious acts that make the news are just the tip of the iceberg.

    Since we live in a drug-culture society, I would like to see statistical data compiled revealing the percentage of perpetrators who are drug personalities. I have concluded that any person convicted of drug offences or known to be a drug user should not be allowed to own an animal. Those individuals lack compassion and tolerance, and they are guilty of abusing and neglecting animals in their care in so many various ways.

    It’s way past time for legal wording to stop defining animals as “property.”

    • Debbie Spear says:

      Doris Muller I think you are heading down a dangerous road called discrimination & stereo typing. You cannot make such broad assumptions linking drugs with animal abuse. Are you going to include alcohol too? If you don’t, the statistics will mean nothing. Abuse and cruelty perpetrators are from all segments of our population. Guilt should be decided on a case by case basis — not one aspect of a person’s life.

  2. karen Fitch says:

    it is about time something is done

  3. Karen Fink says:

    We are long overdue to pass severe penalties to animal abusers. Animals can not defend themselves and it is up to caring people to pass laws against these evil people.

  4. beate gaidatsch says:

    Please help the animals, they can’t help themselves, cruel people a bruel to humans too!!!

  5. Doris Muller says:

    Debbie Spear
    You state, ” you are heading down a dangerous road called discrimination & stereo typing.” Vicious, violent behavior by any other name is still vicious, violent behavior. If drug, including alcohol, use is a common denominator in cruelty and death to animals, then, it needs to be addressed lawfully. Nobody needs to have animals in their possession if they are known drug offenders, if statistical data clearly shows the connection. For too long society has erred on the side of caution to protect freedom at enormous cost to the defenseless victims. When the victims are animals, the perps are shielded by their ability to hide their horrendous, malicious atrocities.

    I do not worry about terms–“discrimination & stereo typing”–applied to laws by those who are supporting of/or are the guilty–so be it.

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