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House Passes Bill to Make Animal Cruelty a Federal Crime


The crime of animal cruelty has largely been defined based on state law and what the state deems constitutes this crime. For example, Florida law dictates that anyone who deprives an animal of sustenance of shelter, kills, mutilates, overdrives, overloads, torments, or causes this to be done to an animal commits animal cruelty, which is a first degree misdemeanor; typically punishable via fine and, under certain conditions, less than one year in prison. Historically, the federal government has largely been consigned to regulating only those activities that affect commerce, such as videos depicting animal cruelty sold online across state borders.

However, that may soon change: The House of Representatives recently passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (“PACT”) Act, making a number of activities a federal offense nationwide and increasing the penalties for these crimes. If next passed by the Senate and enacted, it will make burning, crushing, drowning, impaling, suffocation, sexual exploitation, or any other “violence that leads to serious bodily injury to animals” a federal felony that results in up to seven years in prison and a significant fine. The bill expands upon a law already passed in 2010 which prohibited creating and distributing animal “crush” videos (involving people torturing, crushing, and killing small animals) illegal.

With a federal ban in place, it will arguably be easier to prosecute certain cases that span a number of jurisdictions, as well as those that occur on federal property, such as military bases. Bars to its passage is not expected from the Senate, given that it has passed a companion bill to the law twice already.


The law was written to explicitly exempt certain activities involving animals from prosecution, including:

  • Fishing
  • Humane euthanasia
  • Hunting
  • Slaughter for food
  • “Normal” agricultural husbandry, veterinary, or other management practices
  • “Actions necessary to protect life or property”
  • Medical and scientific research
  • Trapping

If You’ve Been Charged with A Federal or State Crime, Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyers

The PACT Act not only now makes a number of activities involving animals illegal on federal property, it also provides federal authorities with more leeway to crack down on a number of activities that affect interstate and foreign commerce, including any and all websites that contain certain information and moving animals across state lines. If you have been charged with animal cruelty, it is best to work with a criminal defense attorney who has worked on these specific cases before at both the state and federal level, especially now that there is more overlap between these crimes and prosecutions.

At The Baez Law Firm, our Orlando criminal attorneys have direct experience successfully defending clients when it comes to a number of crimes. Contact us today for a free consultation to find out more.



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