Animal lovers are rejoicing over a new piece of legislation that is expected to make animal cruelty a felony.

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, which was reintroduced by two Florida congressman last week, would make extreme acts of animal cruelty a federal crime punishable by up to 7 years in prison.

The bill has received unanimous bipartisan approval in the Senate twice before – and it even received over 200 endorsements from law enforcement officials and almost 300 House co-sponsors. Both times, it was blocked from reaching the floor by former Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia.

Because Goodlatte is no longer serving in Congress, however, legislators are optimistic about the bill’s approval.

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The PACT Act, which was co-sponsored by Ted Deutch (D) and Vern Buchanan (R), will close a 2010 legislative loophole that only made animal cruelty punishable under federal law if it was caught on film.

“The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Buchanan said. “Protecting animals from cruelty is a top priority for me and I look forward to working with Congressman Deutch on this important issue.”

The bill contains exceptions for normal veterinary care, hunting, and conduct necessary to protect life or property from a serious threat caused by an animal.

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According to a statement from Buchanan’s office, the legislation has already been endorsed 155 House co-sponsors, the Humane Society of the United States, and law enforcement agencies. The press release also emphasizes that the bill is expected to protect human livelihood as well, since animal abuse has been shown to be a common precursor for other violent crimes, with one study stating that nearly 40% of animal abusers had committed violent crimes against humans.

“This is commonsense, bipartisan legislation to bring some compassion to our animal laws,” Deutch said. “For many Americans, animal welfare is an important policy issue, and the idea of animal abuse is abhorrent. By building on state and local laws, Congress should act to guarantee a level of protection for animals across the country by criminalizing these inhumane acts.”

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