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What You Should Know About the Animal Cruelty Act?

Posted in Criminal Defense,Uncategorized on November 26, 2019

The US federal government is working to strengthen animal cruelty laws throughout the country. Recently, the House unanimously passed a bill that makes animal cruelty a federal felony.

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture, or PACT Act, was approved and will revise a previous law passed in 2010. This bipartisan law was introduced by Florida congressmen Vern Buchanan and Ted Deutch.

“The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Buchanan said. “Passing the PACT Act sends a strong message that this behavior will not be tolerated.”

Prevention of animal cruelty

Right now, federal law only bans animal fighting and only criminalizes wrongdoers when they create and sell videos depicting animal cruelty. The PACT Act will allow law enforcement to go after those who commit animal cruelty anywhere in the US. Under the PACT Act, a person can be prosecuted for drowning, suffocating, impaling, crushing, burning, and sexually exploiting animals.

A person convicted under this new law would face federal felony charges, fines, and up to seven years in federal prison. This bill has been endorsed b the Fraternal Order of Police as well as the National Sheriffs Association.

Being accused of animal cruelty and exception

There are exceptions to this new law, including those for:

  • Customary veterinary, agricultural husbandry, and other animal management practices
  • Hunting, trapping, fishing, or other sporting activity not prohibited by federal law
  • Performed euthanizing of an animal
  • Law enforcement
  • Unintentional conduct

The PACT Act sends a clear and strong message to those who wish to harm animals regardless of where they live in the US. In California, state Penal Code 597 PC, makes it illegal to kill, physically harm, neglect, or overwork an animal. These laws extend to domesticated pets, stray animals, farmed animals, and wild animals.

Penal Code 597 PC is considered a “wobbler” offense in California. This means that a prosecutor has the choice to file an animal cruelty charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony,s depending on the facts of the case and the person’s criminal history.

  • A Penal Code 597 PC misdemeanor charge could result in up to one year in county jail and a file of $20,000.
  • A Penal Code 597 PC felony charge could result in up to 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison and a fine of $20,000.

Additionally, a person convicted of a Penal Code 597 PC offense could face the possibility of:

  • Losing the animal(s) permanently.
  • Having to pay the costs associated with housing the animals after they have been seized to the time of their conviction.
  • Having to complete court-ordered counseling as part of their sentence.
  • An additional year in prison if the animal cruelty offense involved the use of a dangerous or deadly weapon.

Whether at the state level or soon to be the federal level, animal cruelty is taken very seriously by law enforcement authorities.

What’s next

This bill is not yet a law. The next hurdle is to pass the Senate, where a vote has not yet been scheduled. If the Senate passes this bill, it will go to the president’s desk for a signature or veto before it can become a law. If the unanimous vote in the House is any indication, it seems like this bill will become law in the near future.