Monday was a good day for "animal lovers across the country," said Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan. He's behind the bipartisan bill signed into law by President Trump on Monday that makes acts of animal cruelty a federal felony. The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act is an expansion of a 2010 law that outlawed videos that showed the torture of animals—but as the AP explains, the law did not also ban "the underlying conduct." Now, those underlying acts—crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling, or sexually exploiting any "living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians," per NPR—are also a federal crime that can carry penalties including fines and as many as seven years in prison.
The New York Times explains that every state in the country has felony animal cruelty laws on the books. What the new law will do is give prosecutors more ammunition in cases that cross state lines, something that the Humane Rescue Alliance explains has been particularly needed in Washington, DC, where the "cruelty [often] occurs across multiple jurisdictions." The Washington Post adds that the Humane Society had argued the new law was also needed to go after cases that occur on federal property, such as airports or military bases. The law does contain exemptions for things like humane euthanasia, cases where animals are killed for food, and medical and scientific research. (Read more animal cruelty stories.)