‘It’s a big win’: Animal advocates praise new federal animal cruelty law

Sheriff: Certain crimes may be easier to prosecute

Some animals may be loud, but they can’t use their voices to advocate for themselves.

“Animals are voiceless and are among the most vulnerable beings,” said Jen Korz, executive director of the Heartland Farm Sanctuary in Verona.

Korz still hears their desires loud and clear.

“I can tell you for sure, animals have distinct personalities,” she said. “They truly treasure their lives, just like you and I.”

Korz said about a third of the more than 100 animals at the sanctuary were cruelty cases.

“They’re all heartbreaking,” she said.

Korz said a new federal law is a step forward.

The bill signed by President Donald Trump Monday makes intentional acts of cruelty to animals a federal crime.

While every state already has laws criminalizing animal cruelty, animal welfare activists and law enforcement groups say this could help with prosecution of such crimes.

“Any time there’s protection for animals, it’s a great thing,” Korz said.

Previously, federal law only prohibited animal fighting and animal cruelty depicted in videos which are sold. The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, or PACT, expands upon previous law that banned “animal crush videos.”

With exceptions including slaughter for food and hunting, the bill makes the underlying acts of cruelty against nonhuman mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians a felony crime, including purposely crushing, burning, drowning or otherwise subjecting them to ‘serious bodily injury.’

Pointing to a connection between animal cruelty and violence toward people, law enforcement groups, including the National Sheriff’s Association have been advocating for this bill. Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney, who is associate vice president of the group, said he believes the new legislation could help in prosecuting animal abusers who commit crimes across state lines or flee the area.

“There’s been research that shows there’s a connection if you’re violent to an animal, you’re very likely to be violent to a human as well,” Korz said.

While Korz would like to see even more protections for farm animals in particular, the bill sounds like progress.

“Any time it sends a signal to anyone that may even think about harming an animal, that you will be prosecuted, absolutely any protection we can give to animals, 100% we’re behind,” Korz said. “It’s a big win, and it’s the first step on a long journey.”

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