The Devil in the Details

By Kayla Sargent

Readers may recall a WAR article about animal welfare versus animal rights titled “A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing.”  Cavalry Group founder Mindy Patterson warned us that animal “rights” is merely a political agenda while animal “welfare” is what ranchers know best — the animal’s health and wellbeing.  The recently passed PACT Act is the utmost example of “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and it is garnering praise from animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act boasts a title that nearly all citizens may initially believe is good, but the devil is in the details.  The Act, introduced by Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), makes animal cruelty a federal offense.  Specifically, it outlaws the intentional acts of crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling or otherwise subjecting animals to serious bodily harm.  Convicted offenders would face felony charges, fines and up to seven years in prison.

“This is a milestone for pet owners and animal lovers across the country,” Representative Buchanan said.  “For the first time, a national law has been passed by Congress to protect animals from cruelty and abuse.  The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

While those opposing the bill do not condone animal abuse, organizations like the Cavalry Group and Protect the Harvest (PTH) said the language in the bill raises a red flag.  The bill does exempt “customary and normal veterinary, agricultural husbandry, or other animal management practices” as well as the slaughter of animals for food; hunting, trapping and fishing; medical or scientific research; life or property protection; and animal euthanasia.  The exemption, Protect the Harvest said, made it “an easy sell to lawmakers” but the terms could be easily skewed.

“While there is a wide range of ‘common practices’ in veterinary medicine and animal agriculture, not everyone agrees on all those practices being customary and normal,” PTH explained.  “In someone’s uneducated ‘customary and normal’ interpretation, many everyday activities could be a felony under this law.”

Take for example the practice of catching livestock in a squeeze chute — “crushing.”  Or branding calves — “burning.”  Or neck roping cattle in the pasture to doctor — “suffocating.”  Or applying eartags for identification — “impaling.”  Or giving a shot to your dog, horse, lamb, etc. — “impaling.”

“Those examples are all humane and good animal welfare practices used by veterinarians, farmers and ranchers and pet owners across this country everyday,” PTH said.  “They are standard, necessary practices that could be easily misunderstood by someone uneducated in animal handling and husbandry, making these actions easy targets for animal rights groups to use to spread their cruelty message to the unknowing public.”

PTH further examined the meaning of “bodily harm” as defined by Section 1365, 2241 and 2242 and cited in the PACT Act.  “Bodily harm” includes “impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.”  Castrating or spaying an animal not only changes the behavior of it, but clearly impairs a “bodily member or organ.”  This definition could have an impact on breeding stock if left open to interpretation, PTH warned.  Sections 2241 and 2242 define sexual abuse in regards to humans.  Animal rights groups, like PETA most recently, claim that artificial insemination is similar to rape.  These groups have even called breeding stock “sex slaves,” PTH said.

“Under this law, would a rancher or dairyman or horse breeder end up a felon?,” PTH questioned.  “The passing of this bill seems to set a precedence that will eventually criminalize animal breeding and ownership.”

In a campaign letter opposing passage of the PACT Act in the Senate, the Cavalry Group also warned that today’s “normal, everyday animal ownership actions are being redefined as criminal acts even when no animal is harmed.”  Adding that they believe “animal cruelty and torture should NEVER be tolerated” the letter specifies that there are already felony animal cruelty laws in place in all 50 states.

“However, sponsors of this bill fraudulently claim that there are no federal laws against animal cruelty,” the letter said.  “We believe this ‘Prevent All Cruelty & Torture Act’ is setting the stage to criminalize animal ownership out of existence.  Animal owners nationwide are under attack by the animal rights movement.”

The letter could be digitally “signed” and sent directly to the individuals’ corresponding Senators.  Still, the PACT Act was passed in the House on a voice vote and two weeks later, the Senate unanimously passed it.  The Act will now go to President Trump’s desk for approval.

Animal rights’ groups like HSUS and Animal Wellness Action are encouraging prompt passage by President Trump.  The bills original Florida representatives said they believe it will be signed into law “in the near future.”

HSUS’ Animal Protection Litigation division and Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) claimed to lead the way in the fight to have the PACT Act drafted and passed.  It has been in the works for nearly a decade, according to HSUS President and CEO Kitty Block and HSLF President Sara Amundson.  According to the HSUS leaders, the “no-brainer” bill has passed the full Senate three times but in the past was held up in the House.  The hang up was coming from House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) who recently retired.

Block and Amundson said even though there are state laws in place, the PACT Act closes loopholes like jurisdictional conflicts when cruel acts took place on federal property or in interstate commerce.  They also added that “history — and media reports — are replete with examples of criminals who start out by hurting animals and move on to hurting humans.  The sooner we can bring those who commit unspeakable acts of violence against innocent animals to justice, the safer our world will be for everyone.”

The connection between animal cruelty and human violence brought forth support for the PACT Act from many law enforcement agencies including the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Fraternal Order of Policy and the Animal Wellness National Law Enforcement Council.


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