Two Florida lawmakers have reintroduced a bill that would prosecute torturing animals as a felony offense across the U.S.

Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan and Democrat Ted Deutch are sponsoring the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act in a bid to close a current gap in legislation.

The bill hopes to amend an act that was passed regarding so-called “crush” videos— clips of extreme cruelty showing people torturing and mutilating animals, including stepping on them or skinning them alive, which are then shared online.

In 2010, Congress passed the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which made the creation, sale and distribution of crush videos illegal. However, due to a current loophole, the actual act of animal torture is still legal under federal law.

In a statement, Buchanan and Deutch said the PACT Act will make the acts of torture illegal even if no video was created, as well as amending federal criminal code to ban the intentional acts of “crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating [and] impaling” animals.

“The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Buchanan said. “Protecting animals from cruelty is a top priority for me and I look forward to working with Congressman Deutch on this important issue.”

Deutch added: "This is common sense, bipartisan legislation to bring some compassion to our animal laws.

"For many Americans, animal welfare is an important policy issue, and the idea of animal abuse is abhorrent. By building on state and local laws, Congress should act to guarantee a level of protection for animals across the country by criminalizing these inhumane acts.

“We've acted in the past to stop the horrific trend of animal abuse videos; now it's time to make the underlying acts of cruelty a crime as well."

The bill has received backing from several advocacy groups, including the National Sheriffs Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Humane Society of the United States.

“All 50 states now have felony penalties for malicious cruelty, and there are federal statutes on animal fighting and crush videos,” the Humane Society of the United States wrote on their site while asking their supporters to back the bill.

“But there is no federal law prohibiting the underlying act of malicious cruelty when it occurs on federal property or in interstate commerce, and we need to close this gap.”

Anyone convicted under the new bill would face federal felony charges and up to seven years in prison. 

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