President Trump signs landmark animal cruelty bill into law, making sadistic killing of animals a felony in some cases
President Trump signed the first animal cruelty bill of his presidency on Monday, outlawing narrow types of egregious violence usually committed for the purpose of videotaping them.
The Senate unanimously passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act this month after a similar House vote in late October. It applies to non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, building on a 2010 law that criminalized the distribution of so-called ‘crush’ videos—footage meant to satisfy an unusual sexual fetish—by also outlawing the production of the films.
Producing a crush video typically consists of filming a small animal being killed by stomping on it. But the new law expands the definition to include animals that are ‘purposely crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury.’
President Trump said the bill would stop people from sharing footage of animal cruelty. ‘It is important that we combat these heinous and sadistic acts of cruelty,’ he said.
Animal welfare advocate Lara Trump told DailyMail.com on Monday that she is proud her father-in-law put his Sharpie signature on the legislation.
‘I could not be more excited for President Trump to take this historic step today, publicly signing into law a bill tackling the nefarious and unacceptable world of animal cruelty,’ she said in a statement.
‘Our companion pets are family members, and our working dogs are our heroes, and any movement to signal and enforce a positive environment for these great animals is a step in the right direction,’ Ms. Trump said.
The new law carves out a broad variety of activity for exemptions, including slaughtering livestock, hunting, trapping, fishing, and medical or scientific research.
‘[C]ustomary and normal veterinary, agricultural husbandry, or other animal management practice[s]’ are also nestled in a loophole, along with predator control and pest control.
Anything ‘necessary to protect the life or property of a person’ or done as part of euthanizing an animal is also exempt.
The new law has a maximum penalty of fines and seven years in prison.
Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida, one of its cosponsors, said Monday that ‘[t]he torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Signing this bill into law is a significant milestone for pet owners and animal lovers across the country.’
Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, also of Florida, said that ‘animal cruelty is no longer just unacceptable, it is now illegal. We can now finally say that animal abuse is a federal crime in the United States.’
Federal prosecutors have brought cases against producers of ‘crush’ videos in the nine years since President Barack Obama signed the original bill into law.
One woman who filmed herself torturing and maiming small animals for viewers’ sexual gratification pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2015.
In the films, a scantily clad Ashley Nicole Richards, then 24, could be seen stabbing helpless animals including a puppy, a kitten and a chicken.
She would sometimes chop off their limbs and urinate on them while making sexual comments to the camera.
The Houston Chronicle reported at the time that one video seen by authorities featured Richards puncturing a cat’s eye with a shoe heel.
Richards and Brent Justice, 54, were the first two people to be charged under the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act.
Richards was already in state custody in Texas, serving a 10-year animal cruelty sentence.
Federal Judge Sim Lake had dismissed five counts of animal cruelty video creation and distribution against Richards and Justice, citing the films as protected free speech under the First Amendment.
But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the charges, noting that the First Amendment allows limited restrictions on some speech, including obscenity, and that the federal law was constitutional because of the ‘secondary effects’ of the videos.