Animal Cruelty Is Now a Federal Crime

By Richard Dahl on December 03, 2019

Every state has laws against animal cruelty. But until recently, no federal law governed animal abuse.

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act went into effect Nov. 25, for the first time making animal cruelty a federal crime. Punishment under the new law for people who abuse animals includes fines and prison sentences of up to seven years.

The new law is the latest step in federal regulations to protect animals.

In 2007, Congress passed a law banning sponsorship of animal fights, and in 2010 President Barack Obama signed a law banning videos that show animals being "intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury." That law replaced a 1999 law that the Supreme Court overturned on the grounds that it was too broad.

The new law, signed by President Donald Trump, expands on the 2010 law by making violent videos of animal harm a felony offense.

Unanimous Support

Even though all 50 states have anti-animal-cruelty laws, the new federal law makes it easier for prosecutors to investigate cases that cross state lines.

The bill for the animal-abuse ban was a bipartisan effort by two House members from Florida, Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Ted Deutsch, and offered a rare opportunity for lawmakers of both parties to come together. The bill passed both chambers unanimously on its way to Trump's desk.

The law does not apply to hunters, trappers, or fishermen, or to people who slaughter animals for food.

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