PACT Act Becomes Law, Making Animal Cruelty a Federal Crime

Although all states currently make animal cruelty a crime, a new act known as the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act will make it a federal crime as well. Previously, because some incidents of animal cruelty crossed state lines, a void in federal law made federal prosecution essentially impossible. However, with the recent enactment of the PACT Act, federal prosecution is now a reality.

“The escalation of these acts to a federal level is likely to cause a significant shift in how these cases are viewed,” states Attorney Jenn Gersch of Nicol Gersch Law PC. “With cases being tried at this level, it will be interesting to see if there are severe differences to the frequency and outcome of animal abuse cases.”

The PACT Act makes it illegal to intentionally crush, burn, drown, suffocate, impale, or cause other serious harm to living, non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians. In addition to making acts of animal cruelty illegal, the PACT Act also criminalizes the creation, sale, and distribution of animal crush videos. An animal crush video includes the depiction of animal cruelty in photographs, videos or digital recordings, motion picture films, or other electronic images.

However, the PACT Act does not stop there: it also makes the knowing creation, sale, and distribution of animal crush videos outside of the United States illegal where the animal crush video is transported into the United States or the person involved intends, or reasonably knows that, the animal crush video will enter the United States. Punishment for violation of the PACT Act involves imprisonment up to seven years, a monetary fine, or a combination of both imprisonment and a fine.

Acknowledging certain industries and common practices, the PACT Act does not apply to conduct, or a visual depiction of such conduct, regarding the following situations:

  • Normal veterinary, agricultural husbandry, and animal management practices
  • The slaughter of animals for food
  • Practices in hunting, trapping, fishing, and predator and pest control
  • Medical or scientific research
  • Acts necessary to protect the life or property of a person

Additionally, recognizing the need to protect those reporting a crime, the PACT Act enumerates a good-faith distribution exception, whereby it is not illegal for an individual to distribute an animal crush video to law enforcement or to a third party for the sole purpose for review to determine whether the video should be referred to a law enforcement agency. Overall, the PACT Act is a significant change to the laws regarding animal cruelty.