President Donald Trump signed a bill making animal cruelty a felony, expanding on legislation from 2010 that made creation or distribution of “animal crushing” videos illegal.
The previous bill outlawed the videos but didn't ban the actual acts of cruelty.
"This common sense legislation restricts the creation and distribution of videos or images of animal torture," Trump said Monday at the bill signing. "It is important that we combat these heinous and sadistic acts of cruelty, which are totally unacceptable in a civilized society."
Trump noted the role animals play "in the development, settlement, security and happiness of our country." He specifically called out Conan, a military dog injured during the mission that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Conan was honored in a White House ceremony Monday.
"Conan was something and created quite a stir," Trump said.
The National Sheriffs’ Association and Fraternal Order of Police endorsed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture act, citing a "documented connection" between animal cruelty and other violent crimes.
The bill drew bipartisan support, championed in the House by Florida Reps.Ted Deutch, a Democrat, and Vern Buchanan, a Republican. Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., introduced the legislation in the Senate.
"Special thank you to all the animal lovers everywhere who know this is simply the right thing to do," Deutch said. "This is a major step to end animal abuse."
"Animal crushing" is a term used to describe torturing animals – often small ones such as kittens, puppies, bunnies or mice. The PACT act defines animal crushing as when “one or more living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians is purposely crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury.”
Every state has laws banning animal cruelty. This year, a Maryland man was sentenced to 90 days in jail for posting a video of himself jumping on a pelican in Florida.
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said the law fills a gap between state laws, allowing federal prosecutors to pursue cases that cross state lines.
The bill provides for federal fines and imprisonment of up to seven years for a PACT conviction.
"PACT makes a statement about American values,” Block said. “For decades, a national anti-cruelty law was a dream for animal protectionists. Today, it is a reality.”
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Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action, said the group was "thrilled to see the first anti-cruelty statute in American history" signed into law, lauding Trump and Congress for their efforts.
“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," Irby said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump signs PACT Act, making animal cruelty a felony