The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously passed bipartisan legislation that would make animal abuse a felony.
The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT) Act bans extreme, intentional acts of abuse to animals including crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling and sexual exploitation.
It allows authorities to go after offenders when the violence occurs on federal property or crosses state lines.
H.R. 724 also makes it illegal to film acts of animal cruelty. Previously, only the creation and distribution of videos depicting such abuse was a federal crime, but not the underlying act itself.
The legislation was introduced by two congressman from Florida, Reps. Ted Deutch, a Democrat, and Vern Buchanan, a Republican. It had about 300 total co-sponsors from both sides of the political aisle.
“Today’s vote is a significant milestone in the bipartisan quest to end animal abuse and protect our pets. This bill sends a clear message that our society does not accept cruelty against animals,” Deutch said in a statement released by his office.
Those prosecuted under the PACT Act could face a prison sentence of up to seven years, a fine, or both.
“The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Buchanan said, according to the statement. “Passing the PACT Act sends a strong message that this behavior will not be tolerated.”
Animal welfare advocates also lauded the bill’s passage.
“Most people are shocked to know that the U.S. does not have a federal animal cruelty law,” said Holly Gann, who lobbied for the bill and is the federal affairs director for Los Angeles-based Animal Wellness Action and Animal Wellness Foundation. “Enacting this bill sends a signal that our nation has no tolerance for intentional cruelty toward animals.”
Companion legislation has already been introduced in the U.S. Senate by a bipartisan group of four senators that includes Sen. Dianne Feinstein, according to Deutch’s office.
The Senate has not yet scheduled a vote.