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Is Animal Cruelty a Crime?

Big brown german shepherd looking sad, locked in a cage, abuse

PACT Act Makes Animal Cruelty a Federal Crime

Animal cruelty is highly common and underreported in most cases. Advocates claim that abuse of dogs, cats, horses and livestock is most often reported, but due to the lacking legal protections of livestock, only the most staggering cases are reported while few get prosecuted. Animal cruelty has taken the lives of countless animals and continues to occur behind closed doors, and advocates have worked tirelessly to change that.

Animal rights organizations such as the ASPCA describe signs of animal cruelty to include:

  • A tight collar that caused a neck wound or has become embedded in the pet's neck
  • Open wounds, signs of multiple healed wounds or an ongoing injury or illness that isn't being treated
  • Extreme thinness or emaciation — bones may be visible
  • Patches of bumpy, scaly skin rashes
  • Weakness, limping or the inability to stand or walk normally
  • Heavy discharge from eyes or nose
  • An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal
  • Visible signs of confusion or extreme drowsiness\
  • Pets are tied up alone outside for long periods of time without adequate food or water, or with unsanitary food or water
  • Pets are kept in an area littered with feces, garbage, broken glass or other objects that could harm them

With these points in mind, it comes as no surprise that all US states have their own laws governing animal cruelty. However, there was never any federal law that prohibited specific acts of cruelty, making it difficult to prosecute animal cruelty that occurred on federal land, across state lines or was posted online.

That all changed on November 25, 2019, when the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act was signed to protect living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians from animal crushing.

The PACT Act makes animal crushing illegal, in addition to creating and distributing animal crush videos. The law also bans the knowing sale, marketing, advertising, exchange, distribution, or creation of an animal crush video outside of the US if:

  • a person engaging in the conduct intentionally or has reason to know that such video will be transported into the US, its territories or possessions; or
  • the animal crush video is transported into the US, its territories or possessions.

The PACT Act defines “animal crushing” as conduct in which one or more living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians is purposely:

  • Crushed
  • Burned
  • Drowned
  • Suffocated
  • Impaled
  • Otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury

A person who is convicted of animal crushing will suffer steep fines and/or up to 7 years in federal prison. As such, it is critical to avoid engaging in animal crushing videos at all costs, or else you may suffer serious legal repercussions. While animal rights organizations, like the ASPCA, define animal cruelty differently than the federal government, the bottom line is that if someone suspects you of animal crushing, you can suffer life-altering consequences.

If you or someone you know is accused of animal crushing, put 25+ years of legal experience in your corner by retaining Masella Law Firm, P.A. Contact our Columbia federal crimes defense lawyer at (803) 938-4952 today to learn more!