Are we finally getting a federal animal cruelty law?

Animal cruelty laws vary from state to state, with some having relatively robust protections for our furry, feathered or finny friends and others providing little more than a slap on the wrist for even the most egregious offenses. What’s been missing all along is some sort of standardized federal law to cover this type of abuse. Efforts have been made to pass such a bill in the past, but they’ve all fallen short. But now, with the passage of a new proposal in the house, that may be about to change. (WaPo)

Many acts of animal cruelty are closer to becoming federal felonies after the House’s unanimous passage Tuesday of the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act.

If passed by the Senate and enacted, the bill will outlaw purposeful crushing, burning, drowning, suffocation, impalement or other violence causing “serious bodily injury” to animals. Violations could result in a fine as well as up to seven years’ imprisonment.

Advocates say the PACT Act would fill crucial gaps in national law, which only bans animal fighting as well as the making and sharing of videos that show the kind of abuse the PACT Act would criminalize.

The Senate already passed its own version of the bill twice, and it has more than three dozen sponsors from across party lines. So this definitely looks like something that is within reach.

I’ve long hoped that we might get something like this on the books. When I was younger I volunteered at a Humane Society shelter for several years and often wound up going out on calls with the county animal control officer. Some of the things we saw left me with nightmares and they stay with me today. But none of it came close to the “crush videos” that have been making the rounds on the internet over the past couple of years.

It’s hard to understand how sick and depraved someone must be to do something like that to a helpless animal. It’s also long been understood that people who torture or maim animals for pleasure are far more likely to go on and commit similar crimes against human beings.

I know that some people are arguing that seven years in prison seems excessive when the victim is an animal. But we can assume that sentences like that will be reserved for only the most serious offenders. I’ve also heard comments about the fact that animals don’t have inherent rights like human beings do. That’s true to a point, but it’s more accurate to say that animals don’t have rights other than those that we assign to them. And we certainly have the ability to assign them the right to not be tortured by sick, depraved individuals. Let’s get this done.

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