HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The Senate has unanimously passed a bill that makes animal cruelty a federal felony.
A New Leash on Life Director Debbie Dodd says the bill is a step in the right direction.
Current federal law prohibits animal fighting and only criminalizes animal cruelty if the wrongdoers create and sell videos depicting the act.
Under the PACT Act, a person can be prosecuted for crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating and impaling animals and sexually exploiting them. Those convicted would face federal felony charges, fines and up to seven years in prison.
Dodd says the bill is for the best. "It helps protect the public from these people who are very, very cruel," says Dodd. She has seen the results of animal abuse.
"I've got one right now, a cruelty case, at my house but he's just scared of everybody," says Dodd. "He's been very, very mistreated and he'll come around, but he's got to learn to trust."
Right now, all 50 states have laws in their books against animal cruelty on the state level.
If President Trump signs the bill, authorities can go after the wrongdoers because they will have federal jurisdiction and will not be bound by state laws. They can also prosecute criminals if the cruelty occurs on federal property.
"It's a step in the right direction as far as federal law is concerned, but I'd like to see improvements," says Dodd.
The improvements Dodd mentions is in the list of exceptions:
- a customary and normal veterinary, agricultural husbandry, or other animal management practice;
- the slaughter of animals for food;
- hunting, trapping, fishing, a sporting activity not otherwise prohibited by Federal law, predator control, or pest control;
- medical or scientific research;
- necessary to protect the life or property of a person; or
- performed as part of euthanizing an animal
Alabama representatives Bradley Byrne and Matha Roby co-sponsor the bill.
The bill has been endorsed by the National Sheriffs Association and the Fraternal Order of Police.