America is About to Make Animal Abuse a Federal Crime

Claire Killian

In a time of hyper-polarization, where issues that should be universal are becoming increasingly partisan, it is reassuring to know that there are still some offenses that we, as a country, are entirely against. On Tuesday, November 5 2019, the Senate unanimously passed a law called the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACTA), which had made it through the House a year before. The law, which had bipartisan sponsorship, would bolster a preexisting Obama-era law which made the sharing of videos of animal abuse illegal. The aim of the video is the end the filming and distribution of so-called “Crusher Videos”, which show animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated or tortured. Often, these videos include women who crush, or impale, small animals with stilettos. The law would not affect individuals who kill animals for food or for legal hunting.

This law isn’t just good for the animals though, often times animal abuse is a signal of domestic abuse, and making it a crime has the potential to help protect human lives as well. According to the Humane Society, 71% of domestic violence survivors say their abusers also hurt pets. Animal abusers are also more likely to other commit crimes and acts of violence. So while this law aims to protect our animal friends, it may inadvertently end up saving humans.

Previously, the United States had no overarching laws on animal abuse. Legislation on the topic was handled at the state level, leading to wide gaps in ideology. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a leading animal rights agency and proponent of the bill, their 2018 rankings, place Illinois in the position of having the best legislation regarding animal safety, and labeling Kentucky as the worst, New York ranks thirty-third. New York does require officers to enforce animal safety laws, and does criminalize abuse, but we don’t explicitly define care standards, provide felony charges for neglect, assault, or abuse, and agencies outside of specific animal welfare units are not required to handle cases of animal abuse. Whereas Illinois does offer felony charges, requires law enforcement officials of any field to handle cases of animal abuse, and can offer protection orders for animals. Kentucky’s only legislation offers sentences for repeat animal abusers, and literally nothing else.

Given the wide variability in state-made laws, it’s important that this Law is enacted. The only thing left is for Trump to sign it into action. It is hard to understand why this bill would face any opposition at all, given that animal abuse is not a hot-button issue, and seems to be a pretty fundamentally agreed upon topic. This bill marks a step in the right direction for America, who in the past few years has been reluctant to pass any aggressive animal protection legislation, despite the ubiquity of the topic. This is happy moment for feathered, fluffy, scaled, and all other types of animals across the nation.