Horrible acts of animal cruelty are now federal crimes.
President Trump signed the Protect Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, H.R. 724, into law on Monday, after the bill received bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The new law takes “the worst and most malicious acts of animal cruelty, including crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating and impaling,” and makes them federal crimes in America, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
This new law closes a loophole left behind by the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, enacted in 2010. The Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, bans the “the creation, sale and distribution of obscene videos that show live animals” being tortured and killed, which helps to protect animals from unspeakable crimes, but only allows federal prosecutors to go after those who create videos of animal cruelty.
Now, with the PACT Act becoming law, the FBI and other federal agencies can arrest and prosecute those who torture and kill innocent animals, regardless of whether the offenders made a video of the abuse or not.
“America’s beloved pets are safer thanks to the passage of the PACT Act by President Trump and Congress,” Lea Berman, founder of Creatures Great and Small and former Social Secretary for the George W. Bush administration, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “It will finally be a federal crime to abuse or torture animals, a recognition of how valuable animals are to us, not only as pets but as service animals, law enforcement support, and loyal companions.”
Creatures Great and Small, a privately-funded charity, led advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill for the past year to push the bill into federal law, and found the act had support from both side of the aisle, “most notably from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Congressional Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, Freedom Caucus and various moderate caucuses.”
The PACT Act, led by U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), passed the House and Senate in recent weeks without dissent.
“We’re thrilled to see the first anti-cruelty statute in American history signed into law and applaud President Trump for providing the voiceless with a level of protection never seen before,” Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action, who was present at the signing, said in a statement to PEOPLE. “The PACT Act will allow federal authorities to crack down on the most egregious of animal abusers and help keep American pets safe from harm.”
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, agrees that the PACT Act means an important step to protecting the rights of animals and people, since, according to HSUS, studies show that there is a link between extreme animal cruelty and violence toward people.
“PACT makes a statement about American values. Animals are deserving of protection at the highest level,” Block said in a statement. “The approval of this measure by the Congress and the president marks a new era in the codification of kindness to animals within federal law. For decades, a national anti-cruelty law was a dream for animal protectionists. Today, it is a reality.”