FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A South Florida lawmaker spoke about a federal bill Monday that would protect animals from the most heinous forms of abuse.
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota introduced the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT) bill in January.
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"There is one issue that we can all agree on, that's making animal abuse a federal crime," said Rep. Deutch at a news conference in Fort Lauderdale on Monday.
If passed by Congress, anyone who engages in animal crushing, burning, drowning, suffocation, impalement, or other serious bodily injury could be charged with a federal felony. The crimes would have to cross state lines.
"What this does is provides the opportunity for state officials to reach out to federal officials when these acts of animal cruelty cross state lines. There are examples of dog fighting, for example, really vicious examples, where the animals are taken across state lines. With this legislation, there will be greater coordination and you will have for the first time federal law that will allow federal officials to come in and prosecute there. It will also ensure greater resources," Rep. Deutch said.
The purpose of the PACT Act is to close up a loophole left in a 2010 law that made animal crushing videos illegal federally. However, the law did not make the horrific acts of abuse in those videos a felony.
"Nine years later, the underlying act of cruelty toward animals is still legal on the federal level," said Rep. Deutch. "The videos are illegal. The actual act of animal abuse is not."
The Congressman, who was joined by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other Broward County leaders, said the bill is limited in scope and won’t preempt or interfere with state or local animal cruelty laws.
Dave Walesky at Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control says more laws to protect animals are always a positive step forward. "Anything that's out there that helps law enforcement prosecute animal cruelty is a good thing in my eyes," he says.
"I am confident that we will get this bill passed and finally make animal abuse a federal crime. This is an important opportunity for us to take meaningful action," said Rep. Deutch.
If passed by Congress, the charge would carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.