Federal Lawmakers Want to Form “Animal Cruelty Crimes” Section at the U.S. Department of Justice

Effort aimed at enhancing enforcement of federal anti-cruelty laws

Conduct a Google or Bing search for “animal cruelty” and you will see a cascade of news items on cruelty cases that will both repel you and test your capacity to understand the behavior of other members of your species.  A torrent of reports of organized dogfighting and cockfighting. Random acts of cruelty including bludgeoning, suffocations, even shooting a pet with an arrow. Accounts of bestiality and all manner of things plainly outside the bounds of our social norms.

These types of human acts of violence are malevolent. But they are also indicators. People who do these things to innocent animals are sending up a flare about their own pathologies, their loss of empathy, their ability to mete out social violence to the vulnerable or the less powerful.  

Society, in the form of law enforcement and our judicial system, ignores these warning signs at its peril. We know what the sociological research reveals: Animal crimes are often an antecedent to violent acts against people, or at the very least, they are bound up with other crimes — from narcotics to gambling to illegal firearms.    

The states and the federal government now make the most malicious forms of cruelty a felony offense. But, especially at the federal level, we need more robust enforcement. 

In a major step that seeks to focus especially on those forms of abuse and make anti-cruelty enforcement as a higher national priority, Reps. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., David Joyce, R-Ohio, and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. Announced the introduction this week of H.R. 1016, the Animal Cruelty Enforcement (ACE) Act.

“Proper enforcement of animal cruelty laws will protect animal welfare and help keep our communities safe from the violence so often linked to these crimes,” said Neguse, a tremendous leader on animal issues in the House. 

In recent years, Congress, in a bipartisan fashion, has dramatically fortified our animal protection legal framework. In 2019, Congress passed, and the President signed, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act. In 2018, Congress tightened the federal Animal Fighting Law for a fifth time in the last 20 years, banning dogfighting and cockfighting everywhere and making the fighting and a range of associated activities felony offenses. The Pet and Women’s Safety Act makes it a federal crime to engage in domestic violence so all-encompassing that it makes victims of the pets in the household. And the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act forbids killing our pets for human consumption. And these laws, all adopted recently, build on other anti-cruelty laws passed previously, such as the Animal Crush Law, which bars selling videos showing illegal acts of cruelty.

The introduction of the ACE Act comes in the wake of seven recent state- and territory-based investigations of illegal trafficking of animals for fighting, exposing syndicates collectively selling tens of thousands of animals across the world for fighting pits.

Our investigation started when we examined live-animal import records from the Guam Department of Agriculture and detailed more than 500 illegal shipments by 60 individuals from more than a dozen states over the last four years.

In Oklahoma, Alabama, and some other states with major cockfighting operators, the enthusiasts for staged fights maintain farms with thousands of birds, neatly arranged in rows with each bird tethered to an A-frame hut, being trained and readied for shipment around the world. A federal law makes it a felony to possess or ship birds for fighting purposes, yet their contraband is out in the open and crowing up a storm. The cockfighters are so unabashed that dozens of them recently allowed a Philippines-based broadcaster, BNTV, to do promotional videos with them, where they boast of the “cutting” abilities of their birds who may be sold into the World Slasher Derby and other major cockfighting venues in the Asian nation.

Taking a closer look at the U.S.-based shippers made plain to us that the United States has become the key breeding grounds for the global cockfighting industry. One shipper, Jerry Adkins of Slick Lizard Farms in Nauvoo, Ala., told a Filipino television broadcaster that he sells 6,000 birds a year to Mexico alone. With some birds fetching as much as $2,000 each, that level of animal trafficking could generate millions in gross sales for Mr. Adkins and the other members of his family.

One recently shuttered website, BeastForum.com, that connected people with an interest in bestiality had 1.2 million users before being shut down. Bestiality is banned in 46 states and it is now a federal crime under the PACT Act. Other websites have flickered on with the same networking content.

You get the point. Some forms of institutionalized cruelty are barely beneath the surface or operate right out in the open.

In the era of COVID-19, we also have a keener understanding than ever that systemic mistreatment of animals may produce dangerous pathogens and threaten public health. It was a live-wildlife market in Wuhan, China — an enterprise requiring the capture, torment, and butchering of wildlife — that launched SARS-CoV-2 and has left more casualties than any global event since World War II.  Mink farms, where semi-aquatic wild animals are kept in extreme confinement and resort to social aggression out of extreme frustration, are now threatening to act as superspreaders of the virus or mixing bowls for the formation of the latest variant of SARS-CoV-2, as happened in Denmark. A recent outbreak in California of Virulent Newcastle Disease, which may have originated in the illegal movement of fighting birds, has cost the federal and state government more than $100 million to contain and resulted in the killing of more than 1.2 million animals as a means of arresting its progress.

In short, when we do awful things to animals, awful outcomes await us.  Animal Wellness Action and the Animal Wellness Foundation are excited to work with lawmakers and the U.S. Department of Justice to make animal cruelty enforcement a priority and to enable strategic action to combat cruelty. Already, federal prosecutors are taking aim at animal cruelty with renewed focus, and federal investigative agencies, such as USDA’s Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, are unraveling these criminal operations. Should the agency get this new capacity as directed by Congress, the Department of Justice can send a signal to the entire federal law enforcement community that animal cruelty constitutes a threat to human and animal safety and must be met with tenacious action to root it out.

Take action here and urge your senators to support the Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act.

121 thoughts on “Federal Lawmakers Want to Form “Animal Cruelty Crimes” Section at the U.S. Department of Justice”

  1. It’s about time!!!!!!!!!! Anyone that mistreats any animal should be killed, OR better yet, have the same treatment that they gave the animal.

  2. Finally! It seems I have waited my entire life for our government to finally step up and protect animals from torture, neglect, and unspeakable cruelty at the hands of people who should probably not be living freely amongst the rest of us!!!

  3. Innocent animals by the millions are abused and tortured by sick humans. People who take part in these vial acts are a danger to society and all living creatures.

  4. It’s time to finally make animal abuse/cruelty accountable and punishable. We have to be their voices – as they are voiceless.
    People who commit these horrific acts of cruelty do not stop at one act – they continue on to other innocent animals; sometimes
    totally enjoying inflicting pain. ALL lives matter!!

  5. In the United States the laxity of the laws supposed to protect nonhumans is such that sometimes there is no difference between this country and China or Ghana or other cesspools where animal neglect, fights, torture, mass killings, etc. are comonplace. We need stronger laws, we need natural rights granted to nonhumans, and we need serious enfocement of the laws.

  6. This Law and others like it MUST be signed in. If we can make people see and realize that the abuse, torture and murder of animals is the begining of the same behaviors done to people we will be saving lives..both animals and people!!

  7. This will be a huge step forward to decrease in animal abuse/ suffering and potentially prevent humans from the same treatment.

  8. This is the best news I’ve heard lately. If this section is actually formed and they do the job they were hired to do, that would be a wonderful thing. This is something that I wouldn’t mind paying my taxes for. We all know that cruelty towards animals can escalate into cruelty towards other humans.

  9. Animal Cruelty needs to be taken serious, no more excuses. The laws need to be strengthened and heavily enforced. There is no such thing as they were just….. Animal cruelty is a precursor to serial crime to humans.

  10. All animals need our protection they have no voice, laws must be made to protect them from abusers and animal abusers should be killed, hunting and traps need to be banned worldwide let animals live happy. Animals like dogs and cats need to be kept in the house in a bed blanket toys food water treats people who leave them outside should not be allowed to have them

  11. Please can we not do everything possible to curtail or even end the cruelty and inhumane treatment of other living beings? I thought we are supposed to be the higher evolved being (“wise” man). The behavior of many make that a lie. Please help those who are at our mercy and cannot help themselves. Thank you.

  12. This is a must for anyone who has an ounce of compassion!!!
    For those that don’t care, just sit and enjoy the torture of innocent animals until they graduate to humans.

  13. I saw this on my local news Fox 8 Cleveland this morning. Thank you to Dave Joyce and others trying get this passed. This is extremely important to all of us animal lovers, but especially the animals. We have seen enough cases that these people who hurt, abuse, torture and kill animals get away with these inhumane crimes. These humans need to be punished to the fullest. I believe in “an eye for an eye” and it needs to be used on them. I support this 100%.

  14. Society, in the form of law enforcement and our judicial system, ignores these warning signs at its peril. We know what the sociological research reveals: Animal crimes are often an antecedent to violent acts against people, or at the very least, they bound up with other crimes – from narcotics to gambling to illegal firearms.


  15. Critical to pass this as soon as possible. The amount and degree of cruelty to animals can NOT be over estimated!

  16. Please support the Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act.

    Animal abusers also abuse defenseless people such as children, elderly and handicapped folks.

  17. We are responsible to be compassionate and caring beings to others, and that includes animals.
    Animals, especially wildlife, are being abused, killed and wiped out with no thought of those responsible for the horrible treatment they are responsible for. Those that abuse, torture and kill animals should be charged, fined and jailed. Those that traffic in animals should be jailed for a very long time so they reconsider doing it again.

  18. Enough of the abuse of animals. Its time for a change and we as human beings start caring and making a difference in the lives of animals. We as people think that we have the right to abuse, eat and do such horrific things to an animal that looks for us to provide love, shelter, food and to care for them. WELL WE DONT. Please help those who don’t have the voice to be heard and give them the life that they deserve.

  19. United States is in the right direction. These acts are ungodly and government needs to pass and enforce animal laws. We need the influence of this great country to spread to nations around the world to enact and enforce similar laws. No animal should have to endure cruelty.

  20. More needs to be done to prevent animal abuse, and stiffer and lengthy prison sentences needs to be handed down to the people who are convicted of animal abuse.

  21. Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Tim Scott,

    There is no justification to support this bill, animal cruelty is an issue in our state and this should be the one thing to support oversight on every level; federal and local. I urge you to sign this bill.

  22. Animals need to be protected against abuse.
    People are less likely to cause harm to defenseless animals if they know they can be held liable for their actions.
    Please take action and support the Animal Cruelty enforcement act.
    Animals need us to stand up for them against horrible people that have no regard for living things.
    Thank you in advance for your attention to this very important matter.

  23. If this were for children no one would hesitate to sign it. The same should apply to animals. Living breathing HELPLESS and INNOCENT mammalian loves with emotions and feelings, including fear, anxiety and depression (exactly like children) need laws to protect them! No exceptions! I don’t see how anyone could mot want to support or advocate for this. Thank you.

  24. We need laws to protect animals & punish the cruel scum that would harm , exploit or torture & kill them. Animals need humanity to protect them . Please do this now world wide!

  25. Please and immediately support animal cruelty legislation, with the harshest punishment we can wield for animal abuse. There is no excuse for not protecting defenseless animals!

  26. We must protect the innocent animals. All living things deserve to be happy, healthy, free and treated with kindness and respect. Any who violate that should be punished.

  27. This is an absolute necessity in Missouri where PUPPY MILLS run rampant without meaningful laws to stop or even regulate them.

  28. This must happen! Crimes for animal abuse must be stiffer. Fines should be high. No more attitude that pets are just animals or possessions. Animals feel every emotion that humans feel. They deserve to be treated a whole lot better.

  29. animal abuse is so far beyond my understanding! laws are not even close to being sufficient punishment for any abuse case. these abusers are so evil and sick!

  30. Thank you for finally putting animal abuse and cruelty on the law books. It’s well past time for justice for those that cannot speak for themselves.

  31. Stop all animal abuse now! It is disgusting how some “humans” treat animals and they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law!

  32. Please protect the innocent, vulnerable animals from abuse, neglect or cruelty in all forms. We, as a people, are finally waking up!! These laws are way past due!! Let’s protect and be a voice for our precious animal population NOW!!

  33. This should have happened decades ago. People who hurt defenseless animals will move to hurting children

  34. Animal abuse is so wrong!! I have been vegetarian since 1976. After seeing what these creatures go through before they are taken away and killed made ME SICK!! These abusers need to pay the price!!

  35. How we treat animals is a reflection of the character of our society. If people abuse animals, they will do it to YOU.

  36. Please support the animal cruelty act. Animal abuse is horrific and needs to stop. People who get their kicks from abusing and torturing animals, will eventually move on to abusing children and adults, if they aren’t already doing that.

  37. Animal abuse is wrong. It’s time we stop killing innocent. We have enough problems to worry about, animal abusing should not be one of them.

  38. Animal cruelty is a horrible crime usually followed by human cruelty. It needs to be included in the Department of justice.

  39. Animal abuse should have a far more punishment especially depending on how severe the case is. That’s one of the biggest problems with our government punishment is not justice enough for most crimes.

  40. Ban all cruelty, especially the kosher and halal crimes because those are justified with pseudo-religious claims.

  41. We truly need a Animals Cruelty Crimes section/divison as part of the DoJ. I am an ASPCA District Captain in the Denver Metro Area of Colorado. I would be most interested in becoming involved with implementing this in each state as well. I would love to help draft the legislation to get these types of laws on the books for our animals. People need to wake up and face the harsh realization that animals are abused every second of every day. We, have the power and knowledge to take these heinous offenders and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. These beings cannot get away with a slap on the wrist, a warning, or a fine any longer. They must be incarcerated, punishment befitting of the crimes against the animals.

  42. In the United States the laxity of the laws supposed to protect nonhumans is such that sometimes there is no difference between this country and China or Ghana or other societies where animal neglect, fights, torture, mass killings, etc. are overlooked. We need stronger laws, we need natural rights granted to nonhumans, and we need serious enfocement of the existing laws.

  43. The animals are innocent victims who depend soley on the fairness and righteousness of human beings.
    This should be an automatic action from us. Not something that needs to be discussed or voted on or passed by a majority.
    It’s just the right thing to do.

  44. It’s time to get tough on animal abusers. If the fines and jail time were stiffer maybe there would be less. Abusing an helpless animal is no different than abusing a toddler. Their both helpless and depend on us

  45. The animals need all the help from law enforcement they can get. I support this at the US dept of justice. The sooner the better. I am tired of seeing horses being turned into kill pens starved beaten and generally abused and no one bei g i vestigated or punished.

  46. Please support the Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act! Cruelty to animals needs to be addressed to the fullest by protective laws.

  47. Please support the Animal Cruelty Awareness Act. Make enforcement mandatory, so often the laws are passed, but they are only as good as the person or department enforcing them. All too often, crimes against animals are dealt with with a slap on the wrist, if that. Punishing people that do these barbaric things is absolutely necessary.

  48. I am all for the Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act – no animal should ever have to suffer abuse. And those responsible for it should be prosecuted.

  49. No one that is convicted of animal abuse should not be allowed to own another animal and that they need to be monitored by police to see that they stick to not owning an animal!

  50. If you are convicted of animal abuse, you should be able to have another pet or be allowed access to animals.

  51. Animal cruelty is a problem that has, for too long, not been adequately addressed by federal and state authorities. It is far past time for serious, enforceable legislation be created at the federal to make animal cruelty a serious crime with strong, enforceable penalties. The animals deserve strong protection from cruel actions of all kinds.

  52. Lawmakers should be the voice for innocent creatures that do not deserve mistreatment. The responsibility lies in their law makers hands for criminals to be charged for acts against all animals equally. (nonhuman and human).

  53. Animals are helpless and trust people, only to be abused or tortured in unimaginable ways. The pain, confusion, and suffering that they experience is heartbreaking and any human who puts another life through such horrific things should be punished to the fullest. There are sick people who do these things to animals because they will not be punished in a way if they were to do this to another human.

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