Buchanan leads over 160 congressional members in bill to end animal cruelty

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) has introduced a bipartisan bill having the support of more than 160 representatives in Congress that aims to make crimes against animals a federal offense.

“The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Rep. Buchanan, chairman of the Animal Protection Caucus in Congress.

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, H.R. 724, sponsored on Jan. 23 by U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), would Title 18 in the United States Code. Currently, this section states that, “Whoever knowingly creates, sells, or possesses a depiction of animal cruelty with the intention of placing that depiction in interstate or foreign commerce for commercial gain, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.”

H.R. 724 would amend the federal criminal code to prohibit the intentional acts of crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling or otherwise subjecting animals to serious bodily harm, according to a summary provided by the congressman’s office.

Subsequently, anyone convicted would face federal felony charges, fines and up to seven years in prison, the summary says, and close loopholes by prohibiting the underlying acts of torture, regardless of whether a video is created.

For instance, in so-called “animal crush videos,” individuals kill, mutilate and torture small animals as a perverse form of entertainment that gets shared over the internet, according to Buchanan’s statement.

Although Congress approved the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act in 2010 prohibiting the creation and distribution of such videos, the underlying acts have remained legal under federal law.

“We’ve acted in the past to stop the horrific trend of animal abuse videos; now it’s time to make the underlying acts of cruelty a crime as well,” Rep. Deutch said. “By building on state and local laws, Congress should act to guarantee a level of protection for animals across the country by criminalizing these inhumane acts.”

If enacted, H.R. 724 also would make exceptions for normal veterinary care, hunting and conduct necessary to protect life or property from a serious threat caused by an animal, according to Buchanan’s summary.

“Protecting animals from cruelty is a top priority for me and I look forward to working with Congressman Deutch on this important issue,” Rep. Buchanan said last week.

H.R. 724 is endorsed by the National Sheriffs Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, and national animal welfare groups, including the Humane Society of the United States.

Some 146 congressmen joined Rep. Buchanan as an original cosponsor of H.R. 724, which has a total of 162 cosponsors.

The bill has been referred to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee for consideration.