President Donald Trump signed a bill that makes animal cruelty a federal felony on Monday, saying the measure would help us be "more responsible and humane stewards of our planet."
The PACT Act, which stands for Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture, was signed by the president at the White House, where he said he was "pleased" to approve the legislation. The bipartisan act, which passed the Senate earlier this month, expands a previous law passed in 2010.
Trump said he had the same reaction to the bill as he did to the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act he had signed a few minutes earlier, saying, "Why hasn't this happened a long time ago?"
"It is important that we combat these heinous and sadistic acts of cruelty," he said.
Federal law had previously only prohibited animal fighting and only criminalized animal cruelty if the wrongdoers create and sell videos depicting the act. Under the PACT Act, a person can be prosecuted for crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating or impaling animals or sexually exploiting them. Those convicted would face federal felony charges, fines and up to seven years in prison.
Right now, all 50 states have laws on their books against animal cruelty at the state level.
With Trump's approval, federal authorities can go after the wrongdoers because they will have federal jurisdiction and will not be bound by state laws. They can also prosecute criminals if the cruelty occurs on federal property.
The legislation, which contains exceptions for hunting, is supported by the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the National Sheriffs' Association and the Fraternal Order of Police.