Shelters react to federal animal cruelty act

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LAFAYETTE, LA — Monday, President Trump signed a new bill that puts stricter bans on animal cruelty. The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT), bans any acts of cruelty against animals and depictions of animal cruelty.

The PACT act closes a loophole in a previous law that punished the creation or spread of animal crushing videos but allowed the act itself to go unpunished. Under the new act, any abusive behavior towards animals is a federal offense. Violators face fine penalties and up to seven years in prison, or both.

Shelters and animal advocates across the country have advocated for this change for years. The Lafayette Animal Shelter and Care Center said this legislation is something they’ve read about for the entire presidency, and it is a major step to end animal abuse.

“It’s just basically common-sense legislation. It’s good to see Congress work together for such a good, common cause,” said Robert Benoit, assistant to Mayor-President Joel Robideaux. Benoit led the no-kill initiative for Lafayette’s shelter.

When the president signed PACT, Benoit said he and the lafayette animal shelter celebrated, “I think the animal welfare people all across the country are cutting flips today because of this long, long-needed thing we did.”

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Louisiana ranked #7 in animal protection laws last year. Our border state Mississipi ranked #49.

“All 50 states have animal cruelty laws,” Benoit stated. “Some states enforce them way more than others. We enforce them very stringently in Lafayette, but a federal law is going to be very great.”

PACT makes animal “crushing” a felony nationwide meaning purposely torturing, killing, or seriously injuring mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians can result in up to seven years in prison.

Benoit said he hopes to see a swift response on a nationwide level, but it will depend on federal enforcement. He’s confident Louisiana will continue to be ahead of the curve in emphasizing animal protections.

According to Benoit, “We’ve had a few animal cruelty cases in Lafayette of late, but federal legislation with a seven-year potential jail sentence will put fear in the lives of a lot, a lot of people.”

According to the National Sheriff’s Association, animal cruelty crimes can serve as a precursor to more violent crimes such as assault, domestic violence, and homicide.

Benoit hopes with the millions of people who’ve learned of the law through social media, more citizens will be comfortable reporting so that more animals can be saved and put in a good home.

He said, “This bill is passed, and we need your help to stop these nefarious acts.”

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