Washington, D.C. — In a major new federal legislative initiative, U.S. Senators Mike Braun, R-Ind., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., John Kennedy, R-La., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Martha McSally, R-Ariz., introduced the Animal Cruelty Enforcement (ACE) Act, a bill they forged in cooperation with Animal Wellness Action and the Animal Wellness Foundation to step up federal action against perpetrators of malicious cruelty. The measure would create a new Animal Cruelty Crimes section within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), housed within the Environment and Natural Resources Division. U.S. Reps. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Buddy Carter, R-Ga., introduced a companion bill, H.R. 8052, in August.
“Our nation has an epidemic of rampant dogfighting and cockfighting, bestiality, the sale of animal crush videos, horse soring, and other forms of extreme exploitation,” noted Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “A new Animal Cruelty Crimes section would allow the United States to do more to combat cruelty and complement efforts of the states and local governments in sending a signal that malicious mistreatment of animals won’t be tolerated in our nation.”
Within the last two years, Congress and the President have fortified the legal framework against animal abuse, enacting the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act, and other federal statutes criminalizing malicious acts of cruelty. The new DOJ section would concentrate on enforcing those laws and other previously enacted animal welfare criminal statutes.
“America has recently taken big steps to crack down on animal cruelty with new laws to protect animals from torture and abuse, but we need further action to ensure these laws are being enforced across the country and track our progress in eradicating animal cruelty,” said U.S. Senator Mike Braun, R-Ind. “The Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act would create a dedicated Animal Cruelty Crimes Section at the Department of Justice to help bring those who abuse animals to justice and includes reporting measures to track our progress.”
“I’m pleased to join my colleague Senator Braun to introduce this legislation to protect animal welfare,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. “We need to make sure laws related to serious negligence and cruelty toward animals are clear and enforceable, and that the Department of Justice has the dedicated resources it needs to prosecute them.”
A dedicated Animal Cruelty Crimes section at DOJ would allow for robust and effective enforcement of these crimes by designating personnel focused on these issues. DOJ already has dedicated sections on other important societal concerns, such as environmental protection, wildlife, and organized crime.
“People who abuse innocent animals often turn their violence on innocent people,” said U.S. Senator John Kennedy, R-La. The Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act would help better prevent and prosecute animal cruelty, and I’m proud to partner with Sen. Braun and my colleagues to keep our communities safe from sick people who target helpless creatures.”
Bill introduction comes after a series of cockfighting investigations in Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, Guam, Kentucky, and Hawaii exposing massive illegal enterprises involved in global shipping of animals for fighting purposes, in violation of federal laws against that activity.
“If there is one thing all Americans agree on, it’s that strong enforcement is needed to address heinous acts of cruelty like animal fighting where spectators bet on animals that are forced to fight to their deaths, and crush videos where innocent animals are tortured for fetishes,” said Holly Gann, director of federal affairs at Animal Wellness Foundation. “Congress has passed a number of laws to protect animals from cruelty, but these laws are only effective if enforced.”