A new bill was recently signed in to law, which makes acts of cruelty to animals a federal crime. The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act was signed in to law by President Donald Trump on Monday, November 25th. The bill, which was passed unanimously by the House and Senate, classifies acts of animal cruelty as a federal felony offense with a penalty of up to seven years in prison.
WGRZ 2 On Your Side reported on the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, with anchor Maryalice Demler interviewing attorney Barry Covert to provide legal analysis on the new law. Read below for attorney Barry Covert’s comments to WGRZ on the new federal animal cruelty law. You can also click the video below to watch WGRZ’s full report, which includes Barry Covert’s legal analysis.
What is the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act?
Discussing the new federal animal cruelty law on WGRZ, attorney Barry Covert stated “So it really expands the prior law that was enacted in 2010, which made it illegal to distribute video tapes of animal cruelty and what they call crushing, torturing animals. Now it’s expanded to actually committing those acts in and of themselves, if there’s some impact upon interstate commerce.” Mr. Covert continued “now they can be facing felony charges in federal court and up to seven years of incarceration.”
What is meant by interstate commerce?
WGRZ anchor Maryalice Demler asked Barry Covert what the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act means locally for someone charged with animal cruelty. In response to the question, Mr. Covert said “If it in any way effects interstate commerce, now they can be charged in federal court. So if the animals were purchased in interstate commerce, if they’ve moved in interstate commerce, if that individual was doing it in multiple states, now they can be facing felony charges in federal court and up to seven years of incarceration.” Covert continued his analysis of the new law by stating “And the government has been very broad in trying to argue an impact upon interstate commerce. I would imagine that they’ll argue that if they were fed with ingredients that traveled in interstate commerce, if they were moved in vehicles built in interstate commerce, that now you’re going to be facing a federal felony.”
Do animals have to be taken across state lines for federal law to apply?
When asked to clarify if animals have to be taken across state lines for the new law to apply, Mr. Covert commented “No, it can mean that you somehow used anything that was in interstate commerce to try to feed the animal, to store the animals, to transport the animals, even if you did not transport them in interstate commerce. There’s a lot of argument now that the federal government will have to try to federalize criminally, bring you in to federal court, which is much more serious than the current charges in state court.”
Does the new law apply to past offenders of animal cruelty?
The interview concluded with a question regarding how the new law impacts someone who was arrested and charged with animal cruelty before the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act was signed in to law. Mr. Covert stated “Then they wouldn’t be permitted to be charged under this. That’s ex post facto, so they could not bring that under these charges now.”