[Update (11/25/2019): The PACT Act is signed into law]
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, S. 654, this evening, getting us dramatically closer to the day when the nation has a federal anti-cruelty statute that allows the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to crack down on malicious cruelty and also the sexual exploitation of innocent creatures. The PACT Act was led by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., with 34 cosponsors. Action now shifts to the House, where an identical companion bill introduced by Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., has an eye-popping 262 cosponsors and broad bipartisan support, and is ready for final action.
As the first-ever general federal animal cruelty bill, the PACT Act builds on the federal animal crush video law enacted in 2010, which banned the creation, sale, and distribution of obscene videos that show animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other forms of heinous cruelty. The PACT Act will prohibit those same extreme acts of animal cruelty when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether a video is produced, and those convicted of such abuse will face federal felony charges, fines, and up to seven years in prison.
This legislation is also endorsed by more than 200 law enforcement agencies across the country.
The PACT Act would enable the federal government to prosecute malicious acts of animal cruelty on federal property such as military bases, federal prisons, airports, and national parks. It would also enable federal authorities to crack down on the practice of bestiality, which like animal fighting and the “crush video” trade, involves a national subculture where animals are often moved across state lines and where information is exchanged on websites to enable this exploitation to happen.
Such websites are gathering places for people with deviant sexual behavior. One site with more than a million registered users, for example, hosts thousands of advertisements, categorized by state, from people seeking animals to sexually abuse. Craigslist is another online forum used to facilitate bestiality. During any one week, a state’s Craigslist page has dozens of ads from people soliciting or offering animals for sex, often to be transported across state lines. There are still five states that do not prohibit bestiality – Hawaii, Kentucky, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Bestiality is also associated with child pornography and other sexual crimes against humans. During the course of child exploitation investigations, for example, detectives commonly find sexual predators in possession of bestiality materials. In fact, in a study of more than 44,000 adult males evaluated for sexual misconduct, researchers concluded that bestiality is the number one risk factor and the strongest predictor of increased risk of sexual abuse of a child. A study from the University of Tennessee determined that human sex offenders were eight times more likely than the general population to have a history of bestiality.
Sexual predators move their animal victims across state lines to abuse them and there is a predictive association of this behavior with human-to-human sexual abuse. We have federal laws to stop specific acts of cruelty, such as injuring Tennessee walking horses or staging animal fights, so it’s fitting to have a federal statute on core animal cruelty issues and bestiality.
The Senate has unanimously passed this important legislation tonight, and now it’s up to the House to do so, and send the bill on to President Trump for his signature. Almost two-thirds of lawmakers in the House have cosponsored the legislation. There is plenty of support – we just need House leaders to bring up the bill for a vote.
“Animal crushing is absolutely disgusting and there is no place for this behavior in our society,” said Sen. Toomey in a statement. “It is long past time this abhorrent practice came to an end and I am glad the Senate once again took the next step towards advancing that goal. I am hopeful that this bipartisan bill will pass the House and finally get enacted into law.”
“This bipartisan measure finally prohibits a heinous, inhumane practice – stating emphatically once and for all that there is no place in a civilized society for the maiming and torturing of animals. Thanks to the long overdue action of the Senate, the barbaric individuals who commit these crimes will no longer walk free. I call on the House to pass this important legislation immediately,” Sen. Blumenthal said in a statement.
In 2014, South Dakota became the 50th state to adopt felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty. The nation is waking up to cruelty as an indicator of social pathology. First offenders typically start on animals, and then turn their violent instincts to people. 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.