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U.S. House passes bill making animal torture a federal crime

On Oct. 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it a federal crime for people in South Carolina and around the country to commit acts of animal cruelty. However, the measure wouldn't interfere with local and state laws on animal abuse.

Back in 2010, Congress passed a law that made it illegal to create and distribute videos that depicted animal torture. However, that bill did not criminalize actual acts of animal cruelty. To help remedy the situation, Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., introduced the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, or PACT, which makes it a federal crime to purposely burn, suffocate, impale, drown or otherwise injure any mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian. The bill, which was unanimously passed, would apply to interstate and international cases.

According to a statement released by Deutch, the passage of the measure sends "a clear message" that Americans will not tolerate animal cruelty. He also said that the bill has garnered bipartisan support from people throughout the country. A representative from the ASPCA praised the bill and said it is a critical step toward criminalizing the abuse of animals. In February, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate, but it has yet to pass.

Individuals convicted of federal crimes can face severe consequences, including years of incarceration, steep fines and the burden of a permanent criminal record. Because the penalties are so harsh, defendants might wish to retain the services of a criminal defense attorney. The attorney could scrutinize the evidence and attempt to poke holes in the prosecution's case. These actions may help the defendant get the charges dismissed or significantly reduced.

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William G. Yarborough Attorney at Law