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May 28, 2023

"The Animal Crushing Offense Loophole"

The title of this post is the title of this new essay authored authored by Ben Buell available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (“PACT”) Act of 2019 established the first federal criminal penalties targeting the most extreme forms of animal abuse.  Hailed by humane groups as a watershed moment in the development of animal welfare law, the PACT Act created a new federal crime: “animal crushing” — i.e., the crushing, burning, drowning, suffocation, and impalement of living non-human creatures.  But as the first defendants convicted under the PACT Act face sentencing in federal courts, judges and other stakeholders find little direction in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.  The United States Sentencing Commission, which until recently lacked a voting quorum, has yet to promulgate an amendment to the Guidelines that accounts for this change in the law.  Instead, the current framework perpetuates a loophole in which the recommended penalty for animal crushing is typically less than the recommendation for offenders convicted of creating or distributing videos of that conduct.  As federal prosecutors increasingly bring charges under the PACT Act, this gap in the Guidelines will continue to lead to unjust sentencing disparities that do not adequately reflect the depravity of animal torture.

This Essay is the first to identify what it terms the “animal crushing offense loophole.”  It offers three potential solutions on the eve of the Commission’s annual amendment cycle: the creation of a new Animal Crushing Guideline, the express recognition of animal victimhood, and the use of a set of sentencing factors that distinguish among animal crushing defendants.

May 28, 2023 at 04:39 PM | Permalink



Trapping crushes. Farmers use drowning to get rid of vermin. Sounds like a back door by nuts to get into our business.

There are already laws against intentional animal cruelty. Federalizing it is an overreach and dumb.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 28, 2023 5:06:09 PM

Since the Guidelines are advisory only, and are disregarded half the time anyway, I won't lose a lot of sleep about this one. And as TarlsQtr notes, it's hard to see why this is a specifically federal concern.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 28, 2023 5:32:45 PM

The child porn guideline routinely yields a higher range for possessing/distributing images than the sexual abuse guideline would yield had the defendant engaged in the actual conduct depicted.

Posted by: Afpd | May 28, 2023 5:37:22 PM

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