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

It could soon be a federal crime for people in New York and around the country to commit acts of animal cruelty. Currently, it is only against federal law to film and distribute videos of animal abuse.

On Oct. 22, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, or PACT. Introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., the bill would make it a federal crime for anyone to intentionally drown, impale, burn, suffocate or otherwise hurt non-human mammals, birds, amphibians or reptiles. The measure expands upon the 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which criminalized the creation and distribution of videos depicting animal torture.

PACT would only apply to cases of animal cruelty committed on federal property or involving interstate or federal commerce. It would not supersede state or local laws. In a statement, Deutch said the bill shows that America "does not accept" senseless acts of violence against animals. Meanwhile, Buchanan said that animal cruelty is "abhorrent" and deserves to be punished by federal law. The Humane Society Legislative Fund issued a statement saying that PACT will finally give law enforcement agencies the power to prosecute people who intentionally torture animals. A similar bill is awaiting approval by the U.S. Senate.

Individuals facing federal charges for animal cruelty, narcotics importation or other crimes might be able to avoid conviction with the help of a criminal defense attorney. The attorney could protect a defendant's rights and look for ways to challenge the prosecution's evidence, which might cause the case to fall apart. If that isn't possible, legal counsel might recommend arranging a plea deal in hopes of getting the charges reduced.

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