East TN animal advocates excited about new federal bill tackling animal cruelty

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – With new layers of protection at a federal level combating animal cruelty, we’re hearing from animal advocates and what it means for us in East Tennessee.

This week Congress passed legislation that’s now waiting on President Trump’s signature.

The PACT act, which stands for Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture, means that offenders would face felony charges with certain types of animal cruelty.

The PACT act would not interfere with local animal cruelty laws or enforcement.

The act allows for prosecution for crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating or impaling animals, as well as sexually exploiting them.

“I really think the message that this bill specifically communicates is it’s about holding people accountable. We want to hold people accountable locally and at a state level. Anybody who inflicts any type of harm and cruelty on an animal because locally we’re the ones who take in those animals. They are housed here and sheltered while any case like that is going through the judicial process. We want to protect these animals. We’re the voice for these animals who can’t speak for themselves,” said Janet Testerman, CEO at Young-Williams Animal Center.

Offenders would face felony charges with fines, and up to seven years in prison.

“I think a rising tide lifts all boats when it comes to this legislation in this, so it really gives us the ability a.) that people are paying attention to this. That people are taking animal cruelty seriously,” added Testerman.

Testerman says this act brings local and state animal cruelty laws to the forefront, “I think they can definitely be strengthened. We have a long way to go to really protect these animals. We’ve made strides but there’s still a great deal of work to do.”

While there’s still much to learn about how this legislation will work, Testerman says it plays into every animal shelter’s mission, “We’re in the business of saving lives and we’re in the business of protecting them.”

In 2016, Tennessee lawmakers created an online animal abuse registry. TBI listing on its website anyone convicted of an animal abuse offense for two to five years.

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