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animal cruelty

PACT Act is now federal law–but what does it really cover?

The PACT Act (Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act) was signed into federal law yesterday! This is a great law that builds on 2010’s Animal Crush Prohibition Act by making any activity defined as “animal crushing” potentially a federal crime, whether or not the act is committed as part of a crush video.

Unfortunately, there are lots of misleading and confusing headlines on this law, including that the PACT Act:
“makes animal cruelty a federal felony”
“Mak[es] Cruelty To Animals A Federal Crime”
“Bans Cruelty”
“Make[s] Animal Abuse a Federal Offense”
is a “Sweeping Federal Ban on Animal Cruelty”
covers “Most animal cruelty”

The PACT Act does make some animal cruelty a federal offense, but it isn’t that simple! Here are the basics:

✏️ What is “Animal Crushing”?
➡️ Animal crushing commonly refers to extreme fetish videos depicting animal abuse—where small animals are crushed, ripped apart, burned, or otherwise tortured to death. Usually, this is designed for the sexual gratification of the viewer. In 2010, a federal law was passed that banned the creation or depiction of such videos/acts, but NOT the actual underlying act of animal cruelty.

✏️ What does the PACT Act cover?
➡️  It outlaws purposeful crushing, burning, drowning, suffocation, impalement and other purposeful acts that cause “serious bodily injury” to animals other than fish. It also prohibits some acts of sexual abuse against animals other than fish, but this particular provision seems to have a qualifier that such acts are only prohibited if committed in the “special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States” (federal property). The rest of the PACT Act applies to acts “in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce,” in addition to federal property. This limitation on the jurisdiction of animal sexual abuse crimes seems to negatively affect the federal prosecution of, for example, bestiality videos that are distributed online.
➡️ It outlines exemptions for humane euthanasia; slaughter for food; recreational activities such as hunting, trapping, and fishing; medical and scientific research; normal veterinary, agricultural husbandry, or other animal management practice; unintentional acts; and acts that are necessary to protect the life or property of a person.
➡️ It does not apply to anything other than the specific acts of cruelty listed above.
➡️ It does not cover all acts of animal cruelty.
➡️ It does not cover acts of neglect, abandonment, extreme weather, filthy conditions, or tethering issues.
➡️ It does not cover “puppy mill” issues.

✏️ Does the PACT Act change state and local law?
➡️ No. An offender can only be prosecuted pursuant to the PACT Act if the criminal act occurs on federal property (ex: national parks, military bases) or “in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce.” Federal property (“special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States”) is defined in 8 subsections of 18 U.S.C. § 7: maritime jurisdiction, 18 U.S.C. §§ 7(1), 7(2); lands and buildings, 18 U.S.C. § 7(3); Guano Islands, 18 U.S.C. §7(4); aircraft, 18 U.S.C. § 7(5); spacecraft, 18 U.S.C. § 7(6); places outside the jurisdiction of any nation, 18 U.S.C. § 7(7); and foreign vessels en route to and from the United States, 18 U.S.C. § 7(8)).
➡️ The PACT Act was designed not to preempt or interfere with local/state animal cruelty laws or enforcement. The PACT Act is merely a federal overlay, exactly like the federal animal fighting law(s).

✏️ Who enforces the PACT Act?
➡️ Federal law enforcement in federal courts.

✏️ What are the possible punishments for violation of the PACT Act?
➡️ Violations could result in a fine and up to seven years’ imprisonment.

✏️ Does the PACT Act make all animal cruelty a felony?
➡️ No. As noted above, the PACT Act only applies in a narrow set of circumstances. State and local legislation to strengthen animal cruelty and neglect laws are still needed and very much necessary.

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Ashland County Resident Found Guilty in Cockfighting Case

State v. Benny Craft, a case we prosecuted which was investigated by the Ashland County Sheriff and the Ohio Department of Agriculture, with assistance from the Humane Society of Ashland County Ohio

Craft was found guilty after a jury trial of cockfighting, two counts of animal cruelty and one count of possession of criminal tools. Craft was found not guilty of 3 counts of criminal tools and 4 counts of cruelty.

Craft was sentenced to a total of 90 days in jail, $350 in fines, courts costs, forfeiture of the roosters seized and items found to be criminal tools. He was ordered to pay $1,070 restitution for veterinary and other care provided to the animals. Jail is suspended on condition that he successfully complete one year probation. During probation he may not possess chickens or other poultry, and he is subject to inspections.

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Woman Convicted of Companion Animal Cruelty Will Only Keep One Cat

State v. Marlowe, a case we prosecuted for Animal Charity of Ohio. Marlowe was convicted of companion animal cruelty for neglecting 5 dogs at her house. One was emaciated and dehydrated in an outdoor, fenced area. The others were inside the basement, covered in debris, including a large accumulation of fecal material and urine, causing the investigator’s eyes and throat to burn.

On sentencing, Marlowe was prohibited from owning, possessing or living at a residence with any animals, except one cat which must be kept in a humane, sanitary and lawful manner. She is subject to random inspections. If she violates, she will serve up to 90 days in jail. She was also ordered to pay $4500 in restitution to Animal Charity for care provided to her animals.

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Jailtime for Man Convicted of 9 Counts of Companion Animal Cruelty

State v. David Taylor a case we prosecuted for the Lake Humane Society resulting in a lifetime ban from keeping companion animals.

Taylor was convicted in the Willoughby Municipal Court of 9 counts of companion animal cruelty after trial for neglecting his three dogs, who were kept in a cluttered, dirty yard full of debris, including broken glass and nails. They suffered from severe flea infestation, open abrasions, bacterial infection, severe ear mites, fly strikes and whipworms.

In addition to the ban on keeping animals, Taylor was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 45 of which was suspended pending successful completion of one year probation including mental health assessment and treatment. He was fined $750 of which $500 is suspended.

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Over $17,000 Restitution Ordered for Care of Neglected Horses

State v. Patricia Floyd, a case we prosecuted which was investigated by Animal Charity of Ohio. Floyd pled guilty to 4 counts of animal cruelty for neglecting 7 horses. Two had extremely long hooves, several were dehydrated or excessively thin, and all were living in filthy conditions. Horses require regular hoof trimming by a qualified farrier. Lack of proper care can lead to this severe and painful deformity.

The horses were all surrendered. Floyd was ordered by the Youngstown Municipal Court to pay $17,400 in restitution to Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary who did an excellent job rehabilitating these animals. Floyd will be subjected to random inspections for 5 years, and may not possess any animals other than two dogs she already possessed, which were in good condition.

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Owner Convicted for Neglecting Dog’s Severe Skin Condition

State v. Christopher Overton, a case we prosecuted in Youngstown investigated by Animal Charity of Ohio, the Humane Society which serves Mahoning County.

Mr. Overton had three dogs. Two were in good condition. The third had an extreme untreated skin condition which caused large sections of skin to be red, raw and bloody. Blood and flesh were found on the collar when it was removed.

Overton surrendered the dog to Animal Charity. Today he plead guilty to companion animal cruelty. Overton will be on probation for three years, and will be subjected to random inspections to make sure that he is providing proper care for his remaining dogs. He is not permitted to have other animals. He will pay $500 for the rehabilitation and care of this dog. If he violates any of these terms, he may be ordered to serve up to 90 days in jail.

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A Cluttered Van in the Hot Sun is not a Humane Place to keep 17 Chickens.

State v. Sandra Rae Paul, a case we prosecuted for the Loudonville Police, with help from the Humane Society of Ashland County Ohio, was ound guilty of animal cruelty yesterday, and taken to jail.

The evidence showed that the chickens were left in the van for at least 7.5 hours on a day when temperatures were in the mid-80s without shade for the vehicle. The chickens appeared to be lethargic. One died later that night.

Veterinarian, Dr. Melissa Ferry testified that under these conditions, temperatures would reach 130-140 degrees within 40 minutes. She said the chickens would certainly be suffering and would be in danger of heatstroke.

Judge John Good concluded that the vehicle did not provide shelter from sun, but instead amplified the effects of the sun, creating a “death trap.” He scolded the Defendant for blaming the situation on everyone else and taking no responsibility.

The Defendant was sentenced to 30 days in jail for failing to appear, 20 more days for the offense, and will have 70 additional days hanging over her head during 2 years’ probation. During that time, she is prohibited from possessing farm animals, including fowl, and is subject to random inspections.

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Fine for Animal Cruelty to Lemur

State of Ohio v. Jennifer Toth, a case prosecuted for the Cleveland Animal Protective League.

Toth was charged with one count of animal cruelty related to a Lemur named Nova that had an untreated broken leg. The leg was broken at the time Toth purchased the animal.

Toth pled to one count of attempted cruelty to animals. Toth agreed not to keep any more exotic animals is limited to two spayed/neutered dogs, two male guinea pigs, and a turtle for one and half years. There was no evidence that the non-exotic animals were not being cared for properly.

Additional provisions include payment of court costs, a $250 fine, and $1,109.90 in restitution, representing the cost of amputation of the lemur Nova’s leg. Toth is subject to random inspections and must keep all animals in a humane, lawful, and sanitary manner. She faces 45 days in jail if she fails to comply.

Nova recovered and was sent to a lemur sanctuary.

Nova the Lemur

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Jail Time and Fines for Farm Animal Cruelty Case

State v. Sofia Applegate, a case we prosecuted for the Geauga County Humane Society.

Applegate pled guilty today to one count of animal cruelty for neglecting to provided adequate food and water for three horses. One died on the scene. The others were not able to be rehabilitated despite the best efforts of the Humane Society, and were euthanized.

Applegate, who has no other criminal history, will serve three days in jail. Another 87 days were suspended and may be imposed if she fails to complete 5 years’ probation. During that time, she is prohibited from owning, keeping or living with any animals except for the two dogs and one cat she currently possesses, which must be kept in a humane, sanitary and lawful condition. (There was no evidence that the dogs and cat were not being cared for properly.) She is subject to random inspections during probation. She was fined $750, with $650 suspended, and must pay court costs.

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Sentencing for Animal Boarder/Breeder

State v. Theopholis Hunter, a case we prosecuted that was investigated by the Cleveland Animal Protective League and City Dogs Cleveland (Cleveland Animal Care & Control).

Hunter was found guilty of two counts of animal cruelty for neglecting 19 dogs. Hunter operated a boarding/breeding operation for many years. The dogs were kept in filthy conditions and were suffering from various untreated ailments, such as severe matting, tumors/masses, and ear/eye infections. Hunter was cooperative and surrendered all 19 dogs immediately.

Hunter was ordered to have no animals for five years and remove all signage from his property related to the breeding/boarding/sale of animals. He will be subject to random inspections and faces 270 days in jail if he fails to comply. He was also ordered to pay $760 in restitution to the Cleveland APL.

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