A bill signed into action by President Donald Trump late last month made animal cruelty a federal felony, and according to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office it will indeed extend its ability to punish offenders on the local level.
The PACT Act, an acronym for Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture and a bipartisan act, was unanimously passed by the Senate last month and expands on a previous law passed nearly a decade ago. All 50 states have state laws concerning animal cruelty, but now federal authorities will have jurisdiction to pursue offenders without being bound by state law.
Previously, federal law prohibited animal fighting and animal cruelty was only considered criminal if the offender created or sold videos showing the incident. PACT dictates one may be prosecuted for burning, drowning, suffocating, crushing, impaling or sexually exploiting animals.
Federal authorities are also now able to prosecute criminals if the act of cruelty happens on federal property. Those convicted face up to seven years in prison with fines in addition.
In Louisiana, aggravated animal cruelty already carried severe potential penalties, with up to 10 years in prison for the act which is defined as any person intentionally or with criminal neglect torturing, maiming or mutilating an animal.
But Cpl. James Grimaldi, St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said it expands local law enforcement’s reach when it comes to these matters.
“The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Grimaldi said. “The PACT Act provides federal investigational tools for animal cruelty cases which meet the criteria defined under the bill. It’s a significant tool for both state and local resources because it will allow our deputies investigating these cases to partner with the federal government.”
He said that becomes extremely helpful for investigators, particularly when a case falls under multiple jurisdictions. Grimaldi added the bill opens the possibility of criminally charging an offender on both state and federal levels.
“But more importantly, it gives our investigators access to federal resources during the investigation,” Grimaldi said.
Dr. Jena Troxler, supervisor of St. Charles Parish Animal Control and a veterinarian, said while St. Charles Parish had a strong existing foundation to prosecute offenders, praised the bill for the positives it can bring across the nation.
“St. Charles follows state law in cruelty cases and our judicial system does a great job of prosecution in such cases,” Troxler said. “However, all states didn’t have such a foundation to follow through with animal cruelty charges, and this is a milestone for them.”