On Oct. 22, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that would make it a federal crime to commit certain acts of animal cruelty in Arkansas and around the country. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.

The Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010 criminalized making and distributing animal crush videos. The new Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, or PACT, expands on that law by making it illegal for any individual to knowingly participate in any abusive behavior toward animals, including crushing, drowning, burning, impaling or suffocating, if the animals or abuse in any way involve interstate or foreign commerce. If passed, the law would not conflict with local animal cruelty laws.

In a statement, Deutch said that the bill makes it clear that American society “does not accept cruelty against animals.” He also said that he was looking forward to the bill quickly winning approval in the Senate and getting signed into law by President Trump. Meanwhile, Buchanan said that animal abuse is “abhorrent” and those who participate in it need to be face harsh consequences. The president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund praised the bill, saying it finally gives law enforcement officers the ability to prosecute individuals who abuse animals. According to experts, many animal abusers eventually move on to harming humans.

People accused of federal crimes could face severe penalties if they are convicted. However, every defendant has the right to work with a criminal defense attorney and fight the charges in court. In some cases, the attorney might be able to get the charges dropped. In others, legal counsel might advise negotiating a plea deal that reduces the charges. Under some circumstances, this strategy could make the defendant eligible for a more lenient sentence.