This month, Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) introduced the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act. The bill would get us dramatically closer to a federal anti-cruelty statute allowing federal law enforcement officials to crack down on malicious cruelty and the sexual exploitation of animals.
The PACT Act isn’t new to the Congress, and in fact passed the Senate by unanimous consent in both the 114th and 115th Congresses. But long-time House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) — an establishment figure who left Congress in January — blocked the measure year after year.
In Goodlatte’s absence, the PACT Act is primed and ready to move in both chambers. Florida Reps. Vern Buchanan (R) and Ted Deutch (D) introduced the measure last month, and it has already garnered nearly 200 cosponsors in the House.
As the first-ever general federal animal cruelty bill, the PACT Act builds on the federal animal “crush video” law enacted in 2010. That law banned the creation, sale, and distribution of explicit videos that show animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other forms of monstrous cruelty. The PACT Act will prohibit those same extreme acts of animal torture and abuse when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce, and those convicted of such abuse will face federal felony charges, fines and as many as seven years in prison.
The PACT Act would enable the federal government to prosecute malicious acts of animal cruelty perpetrated on federal property such as military bases, federal prisons, airports and national parks. It would also enable federal authorities to crack down on the practice of bestiality, which, like animal fighting and the “crush video” trade, involves a despicable subculture where animals are often moved across state lines and where information to enable exploitation is exchanged online. (Shockingly, five states in the U.S. do not prohibit bestiality: Hawaii, Kentucky, New Mexico, West Virginia and Wyoming.)
Among its many ills, bestiality is associated with child pornography and other sexual crimes against humans. During the course of child exploitation investigations, for example, detectives commonly find sexual predators in possession of materials depicting bestiality. In fact, a study from the University of Tennessee determined that human sex offenders were eight times more likely than the general population to have a history of bestiality.
Research has concluded that more than a third of arrests for bestiality also involve child sexual abuse or exploitation. In addition, nearly 40 percent of offenders have prior criminal records for bestiality, child sexual abuse, child pornography, domestic violence, battery, adult rape, substance abuse, public indecency and even murder. The research also indicates that bestiality — particularly when experienced as a child — is the single largest risk factor and strongest predictor of increased risk for an individual committing child sexual abuse.
It’s unacceptable for Americans to tolerate this egregious behavior, and Congress should act on the PACT Act immediately. There’s no excuse for a delay. As a society, we have an unspoken responsibility to protect vulnerable animals from needless and malicious violence. The PACT Act is a step toward upholding that principle.
Marty Irby (@MartyIrby) is executive director of the nonprofit Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.