Toomey-led federal animal cruelty law awaits Trump’s signature | TribLIVE.com
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Renatta Signorini

A bill making “heinous” forms of animal cruelty a federal felony was awaiting the president’s signature after it passed the House and Senate in recent weeks.

The PACT — Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture — Act makes crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating and impaling of animals punishable by up to seven years in prison, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said this week. Toomey and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., worked on the legislation, which expands a 2010 law outlawing the creation and distribution of videos depicting animal “crushing.”

“Sadly, it does happen,” Toomey said. “This is the right and decent thing to do.”

Individuals who engage in “crushing” behavior do so for their own satisfaction, he said. The law would apply to such acts that occur on federal property or the transporting of animals across state lines for that purpose, he said.

“The states don’t have the authority to control what happens on federal property,” he said.

Officials at Humane Animal Rescue, which operates two shelters and a wildlife rehabilitation center in Allegheny County, were pleased to see this type of legislation passed at the federal level, but disappointed in certain exemptions, according to a statement.

“While (the PACT Act) is certainly a step in the correct direction, we do not agree with some of the exemptions, including those applying to pest control and medical/scientific research,” according to the statement. “We hope that the national attention this bill has received will encourage other lawmakers, federal and state, to revisit and toughen their respective animal cruelty laws.”

The legislation excludes veterinarian work, animal husbandry, the slaughter of animals for food or sporting activities such as hunting, in addition to pest and predator control and medical or scientific research.

Humane Society of Westmoreland County executive director Kathy Burkley said legislators should address issues local shelters, including hers, run into. A major issue, she said, is the length of time rescued animals have to be kept by shelters before they can be adopted out.

Rescued animals cannot be adopted until any court case is resolved, which keeps shelters full and unable to rescue other animals, she said.

“The time between when we seize them and when they get to court is so long that the expense for any agency is exorbitant,” she said.

And even if the offender is convicted and ordered to pay restitution, that doesn’t mean the shelter gets their money back. Shelters do have the option to file a petition with the court to seek the cost of caring for the animal if the offender is charged with a crime, but space is the main issue, Burkley said.

“We can’t rescue animals if we’re filled with court cases,” she said.

Kristen Tullo, the Pennsylvania director of The Humane Society of the United States, encouraged constituents to thank their lawmakers for approving the PACT Act and urge President Donald Trump to sign it.

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