Severe animal cruelty and torture is now a federal felony after President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan bill into law that makes “animal crushing” illegal.
The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act closes a loophole: In 2010, Congress approved the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which made it illegal to create, sell or distribute “animal crushing” videos. Animal crushing is an act of torturing small, live animals, and, perverse videos showing people crushing the animals began circulating online for entertainment purposes. While the 2010 measure addressed the videos, it did not make the act of animal crushing itself illegal, something that the new law fixes.
Under the new law, animal crushing is now a felony punishable by up to 7 years in jail. Those convicted of the crime may also face fines, but the law does not specify fine amounts.
David Rosengard, a Senior Staff Attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, told Newsweek in an interview that he does not expect to see a lot of prosecutions from this latest piece of legislation. However, having the law in place will likely discourage people from making the crushing videos, he said.
The law also gives a broad definition to the term “crushing.” While it seemed to have emerged as a niche fetish, often performed by women in high heels crushing small animals, the new law defines animal crushing as conduct where a living animal is “purposely crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury.”
Animal-rights groups say the signing of this bill is a defining moment for animal welfare and addresses a gap between state and federal laws. While all 50 states have had felony provisions pertaining to animal cruelty, there was not a federal ban against cruelty and torture.
Now that this additional loophole has been closed, federal law enforcement and prosecutors will be able to go after those who commit malicious acts of animal cruelty in federal jurisdiction, according to the Humane Society.
“After decades of work to protect animals and bearing witness to some of the worst cruelty, it’s so gratifying the Congress and president unanimously agreed that it was time to close the gap in the law and make malicious animal cruelty within federal jurisdiction a felony,” Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said in a press statement. “We cannot change the horrors of what animals have endured in the past, but we can crack down on these crimes moving forward. This is a day to celebrate.”
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