What the Federal PACT Act Means and Doesn't Mean for Iowa's Animals

posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2020 in News

On Nov. 25, 2019, President Trump signed into law a bill making some cases of animal cruelty a federal felony.

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act is an amendment to a federal law specifically related to fetish "crush videos." The original law made the production, possession, and sale of such videos a federal felony, but it did not criminalize the underlying act of cruelty itself. The PACT Act fills that gap by making the act of cruelty a federal felony.

However, the PACT Act only applies in very narrow circumstances related to crush videos, and then only in jurisdictions where no state or local laws apply.

While this law is significant, the PACT Act will not apply to the vast majority of animal cruelty cases in Iowa and across the nation.

Iowa currently ranks 48th in the country for the effectiveness of its animal protection laws, but a bill currently in the state Senate would make several key improvements to Iowa’s companion animal cruelty laws, including increasing penalties for certain offenses, improving definitions related to standards of care, and providing for mental health evaluations and restrictions on future possession of animals in certain cases.

In last year's legislative session, the bill was passed unanimously by the Iowa House, and it passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan vote. However, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R-Polk), who determines which bills are voted on by the full Senate, could not be persuaded to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, even though it had enough bipartisan votes to pass.

This year’s Iowa legislative session opened Jan. 13. Because the 2020 session is the second session of the two-year General Assembly, HF737 is still eligible for consideration. There are a couple of paths the bill could take. If Whitver brings the bill to the Senate floor for a vote and it passes without amendment, the bill will be sent directly to the governor for her signature. If the Senate makes any amendments to the bill, it must go back to the House for consideration, making the bill's fate less certain.

To email your state senator and ask them to pass HF737 as soon as possible without amendment, go to the ARL’s Humane Action Network page. You can also sign up for Action Alerts on that page to receive notifications for when you can take action to make a difference for Iowa’s companion animals.

You can read more about the PACT Act at Govtrack.us