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House members re-introduce bill to make animal cruelty a felony

If two members of the U.S. House of Representatives have their way, malicious acts of cruelty to animals will soon be felonies in Texas and across the U.S. Individuals convicted under the proposed law, called the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, or PACT, could face heavy fines and several years of incarceration.

PACT would make it a felony to crush, drown, burn, suffocate or impale animals. It would also criminalize bestiality and the sexual exploitation of animals. However, the law would not apply to veterinary care, hunting and situations where human life and property are being threatened by an animal. The proposed law has been lauded by the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

The bill was re-introduced to the House in mid-January by Ted Deutch, a Democrat, and Vern Buchanan, a Republican. The bill garnered the support of nearly 300 House members and over 200 law enforcement agencies during the last session of Congress, but it was blocked from a floor vote by the former Judiciary Committee Chairman. However, he recently retired, and supporters of the bill believe it has an excellent chance of passing now that he has left the House. In 2010, Congress passed the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which makes it illegal to make graphic videos of animal torture.

People who have been charged with animal cruelty have the right to retain a criminal defense attorney and mount a vigorous defense against the allegations. Depending on the details of the case, the attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed. Another possibility could be to negotiate a plea deal that reduces the charges and associated penalties. For example, first-time offenders could be sentenced to community service in lieu of jail time.

Source: CBS News, "Proposed law would make animal cruelty a felony across the U.S.", Christopher Brito, Jan. 28, 2019

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