In 2007, NFL player Michael Vick made headlines after authorities uncovered an illegal dog fighting ring he and several associates were operating. Though the animals were subject to abuse and such activity is often a violation of state law, Vick didn't spend 23 months in federal prison for cruelty: He was convicted on federal charges of traveling in an illegal venture across state lines.
Now, law enforcement may have far more leeway to pursue people accused of harming animals. The Orlando Sentinel reports that two Florida congressmen are renewing attempts to pass a bill that would make animal cruelty a felony.
The law, known as PACT (Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture), would threaten offenders who harm animals by means of burning, drowning, or impaling with up to seven years in prison. It would also target individuals who engage in acts of bestiality. Currently, the only federal legislation regarding animal abuse stems from a 2010 law prohibiting the production of videos featuring animals being abused for the titillation of viewers.
This isn't the first time PACT has been brought to the U.S. Senate. It gained momentum in earlier sessions before being waylaid by former House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, who blocked it from coming to the floor of the House of Representatives for reasons he did not disclose. Goodlatte has since left Congress.
The bill would not apply to hunting, veterinary care, or those protecting life or property from animals. Animal abuse is currently a felony in more than a dozen states, while others consider it a misdemeanor. In 2016, the FBI began keeping track of animal abuse cases as a Class A felony, putting it in the same records category as homicides and arson.