WASHINGTON, D.C. - Animal cruelty soon could be a federal felony.

What’s known as the PACT – Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture – Act would make animal cruelty a federal felony with up to seven years in prison plus fines. Although all 50 states have animal cruelty laws, this is the first sweeping federal legislation of its kind.

“It’s sort of two-fold,” explained Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “Either these horrific crimes actually occur on federal property or it’s a situation whereby the internet is utilized as part of these crimes.”

Criminalizing online sales of animal cruelty and abuse are a key part of the bill, led by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

“These are demented individuals that take some kind of enjoyment out of this and sometimes film this and distribute these films,” Toomey said.

Right now, animal cruelty is only illegal at the federal level if someone sells video of the act.

The PACT Act would prosecute someone if they commit including crimes include “crushing,” burning, drowning, suffocation, sexual exploitation, and impalement.

“The internet has, frankly, made it possible to disseminate these appalling images,” Toomey said.

“And with all due respect, those are some of most horrific animal cruelty we’ve seen,” Amundson added.

Both Toomey and officials from the Humane Society of the United States – one of the groups lobbying for this bill for years – believe this will make both pets and people safer. A Humane Society survey found 71 percent of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser also targeted pets.

“This legislation is overdue,” Toomey said, “but now we’ve gotten it done.”

The legislation contains exemptions for hunting.

The Senate’s passage comes just two weeks after the U.S. House approved the PACT Act.


The bill will now head to President Trump’s desk where he could sign it as early as next week.