Animal Cruelty

Animal Cruelty

Is there a Federal Law against animal cruelty?

Yes as of 2019 there is finally a federal law against animal cruelty called the Pact Act. Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act.

The Pact Act passed the House on October 22, 2019 unanimously. It then passed in the Senate unanimously on November 6, 2019. President Trump signed the PACT Act bill into law on November 25, 2019.

What Does the Federal Animal Cruelty Law Say?

Previously there was a 2010 Federal Law against Crush Videos. This new law makes it illegal not only to make crush videos but now to torture, crush animals or cause them serious bodily injury.

What is Animal Crushing?

Animal crushing means conduct where one or more living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians is purposely crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subject to serious bodily injury.

What is Serious Bodily Injury to an Animal?

The federal statute uses Title 18 Sect. 1365’s definition of serious bodily injury:

(3) the term “serious bodily injury” means bodily injury which involves—

(A) a substantial risk of death;

(B) extreme physical pain;

(C) protracted and obvious disfigurement; or

(D) protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty; and

For reference “bodily injury” is defined below:

(4) the term “bodily injury” means—

(A) a cut, abrasion, bruise, burn, or disfigurement;

(B) physical pain;

(C) illness;

(D) impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty; or

(E) any other injury to the body, no matter how temporary.

What is the Punishment for Federal Animal Cruelty?

The punishment is up to 7 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.

Who Does the PACT ACT Affect?

The new law targets people who animal crush or cause serious bodily injury under the definition above. The offender will likely be doing cruelty as part of interstate, foreign commerce, in special maritime, or territorial jurisdictions of the United States.

The Federal Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, meaning that they only exercise powers granted to them by the Constitution and Federal Laws

This new law makes it a federal crime to commit animal crushing in the United States.

“The jurisdiction of the federal courts has been defined by the Constitution, congressional statutes, and decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Article 1 Section 8 of the Federal Constitution allows the federal government to consider certain criminal cases as under federal jurisdiction.

For instance under ‘federal subject matter jurisdiction’ means that the statute would not require the need for interstate commerce or crossing state lines to be enforceable. Nor is the federal jurisdiction limited to the crime taking place on federal property.

The PACT Act will apply to federal animal cruelty taking place over multiple jurisdictions or on federal property.

What Was the Law Before?

The federal law from 2010 only made it illegal to make videos of animal crushing that made their way into interstate commerce. It did not outlaw crushing surprisingly. Presumably congress was relying on each individual state to enforce their own animal cruelty laws.

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Author: Eric Torberson

Eric Torberson is a licensed attorney in Texas as well as licensed in the federal courts of the southern and western districts of Texas.