Congressman Roe and shelter director weigh in on new animal cruelty law

Brandon Paykamian • Nov 7, 2019 at 9:00 PM

Legislators passed a bill Tuesday that makes certain types of animal cruelty and torture a federal felony.

The U.S. Senate passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act unanimously two weeks after the House of Representatives passed the legislation by a voice vote. The legislation would expand existing federal laws on “animal crushing” videos that depict the deadly, often prolonged torture of animals and would make the acts themselves a federal crime.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Florida, and Vern Buchanan, R-Florida, prohibits acts of extreme animal cruelty when they happen in interstate commerce or on federal property. It would also crack down on the sexual abuse of animals.

“As a dog owner, I believe we should do all we can to prevent wanton cruelty to animals. I was proud to support the PACT Act, which sends a strong message that our society doesn’t accept the torture of animals by prohibiting the practice of animal crushing,” U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, said, noting that the law exempts sporting activities like hunting and fishing, as well as processing of animals for food.

Current federal law bans the distribution of videos showing animals being crushed, burned and tortured but does not explicitly prohibit the conduct itself.

Animal Wellness Action Director of Federal Affairs Holly Gann said the bill was “far overdue,” a sentiment echoed by other animal rights advocates and Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter Director Tammy Davis.

“I think this is a huge step in the right direction. This should have been a federal crime a long time ago,” Davis said.

Davis said she would also like to see stricter laws for “anything and everything” that has to do with animal cruelty, which she said is often only met with a “slap on the wrist.”

“I think the punishment right now is nowhere near as harsh as it needs to be. Mostly, it seems like a lot of it is supervised probation with maybe three days jail time,” she said. “The only fortunate thing is if someone is convicted of animal cruelty, we can request that the judge put in the sentencing that that person can not own any type of animal for a certain amount of time ...” 

Johnson City commissioners recently approved a new animal control ordinance that aims to manage the local animal population, reduce the number of animals coming into the shelter and increase the quality of life for animals in the city.

The ordinance, which commissioners hope to implement after two more approval votes, would prohibit the chaining of pets and would require dog owners to register their pets every year. The provisions would also give the animal shelter the ability to spay or neuter a pet after a 72-hour waiting period if the pet comes into the shelter’s doors. 

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