Animal Cruelty Becomes A Federal Offense

On November 25, 2019, President Trump signed into law the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act. Representative Vern Buchanan and Representative Ted Deutch, both from Florida, introduced the bill in the House earlier this year. In October, the House passed it unanimously, and two weeks later, the Senate did the same.

The new law makes the following acts committed against animals criminal offenses:

  • Crushing,
  • Burning,
  • Drowning,
  • Suffocating,
  • Impaling, and/or
  • Subjecting them to other serious harm

It also prohibits engaging in sexual acts with animals.

Wasn’t Animal Cruelty Already a Federal Offense?

Technically, underlying acts of animal cruelty were not prohibited by federal law. The previous statute against this type of behavior made it illegal to pit animals against each other in fights or to create and distribute “animal crush videos.”

According to 18 U.S.C. § 48, an animal crush video is a photo, video, digital recording, or digital image that depicts 1 or more animals being subjected to serious bodily injury.

Videos of this type have been circulated online and depict animals being:

  • Burned alive
  • Cut with scissors
  • Nailed to the floor
  • Stabbed
  • Stepped on

The previous federal law prohibited a person from knowingly creating a crush video if they are aware that it is or will be distributed across state lines. It was also illegal to sell, market, advertise, or distribute such a video. However, it did not criminalize the underlying acts.

The new law expands on the previous by making the actions in the crush videos illegal. It states that purposely engaging in animal crushing is unlawful.

Is Animal Cruelty a State Crime?

Alabama does have a law on the books that prohibits acts of animal cruelty.

Under Alabama Code § 13A-11-14, it is illegal to:

  • Subject an animal to cruel mistreatment;
  • Neglect an animal under one’s custody; or
  • Kill or injure someone else’s animal
What Are the Punishments for Animal Cruelty?

Under state law, animal cruelty is a Class A misdemeanor.

The conviction penalties include:

  • First offense:
    • A fine of up to $3,000 and/or
    • A jail term of up to 1 year
  • Second offense:
    • A fine between $500 and $3,000 and/or
    • A jail sentence of up to 1 year
  • Third offense:
    • A fine between $1,000 and $3,000 and/or
    • A jail term of up to 1 year

Under federal law, animal cruelty is a felony. A conviction carries with it a prison sentence of up to 7 years.

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