The US government has taken action to prevent a cruel online trend of animal abuse. In what are known as crushing videos, people maliciously torture small animals – crushing, burning, or impaling, among other methods – for the desire of online viewers with this "bizarre fetish," according to the Animal Welfare Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes humane treatment of animals.
A federal bill known as the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, introduced to the House of Representatives in March, could make some forms of animal cruelty a felony, including fines and up to seven years in prison.
This is not the first federal attempt to prevent this kind of behavior. A 2010 bill known as the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act prohibited the creation and distribution of the videos. The problem lied in the fact that these acts of animal cruelty themselves remained unpunishable by federal law. Individual states had attempted action too. Under most state laws, the acts of cruelty themselves are prohibited, however, enforcement becomes complicated when it is unknown where the cruelty took place.
The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act would fill this gap by defining animal crushing, prohibiting it in interstate or foreign commerce, and allowing federal intervention when states lack the ability to enforce laws, according to the Animal Welfare Institute.
Organizations like Animal Defenders International, a lead proponent of the bill, say the the bill is a "huge step in the right direction."
"This is something that should have been outlawed decades ago," said Lesley McCave, a spokesperson for ADI, an international campaigning group for animal rights.
McCave is hopeful that the bill will pass in the House, considering it has 222 co-sponsors and 218 votes are needed to pass. Democrat Rep. In a tweet, Ted Deutch called the PACT Act a "bipartisan, common-sense policy that will protect our animals."
When it comes to animal rights bill like the PACT Act, public support is especially necessary, according to McCave.
"When we make the effort…even if it's something as simple as calling or emailing your legislature, they do listen," McCave said.