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Who says a hyper-partisan Congress can't agree on anything?

On Tuesday, the U.S. House unanimously approved a bill that would make animal abuse a federal felony – even if it isn't video recorded. Local authorities applauded the bill.

“We at the Palestine Police Department take crimes against animals very seriously,” Interim Police Chief Mark Harcrow said. “As law enforcement officers, it's our job to defend those who can't defend themselves, and animals fall into that category.”

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT), a bi-partisan act authored by two U.S. representatives – Ted Deutch (D-Palm Beach), and Vern Buchanan (R-St. Petersburg) – would enable federal authorities to prosecute people for crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, and impaling animals, or sexually exploiting them.

Under the bill, which also covers dog fighting, those convicted could face fines and up to seven years in prison.

PACT would revise the current law, passed in 2010, that makes such acts federal felonies only if they are video recorded.

"This bill sends a clear message that our society does not accept cruelty against animals,” Deutch said in a statement. “We’ve received support from so many Americans from across the country and across the political spectrum.”

Terry Cashion, operations manager for the Humane Society's “Pets Fur Hugs” animal protection organization in Tyler, said the bill is good news – if it is enforced.

“There are lots of laws, state and local, that aren't enforced,” Cashion told the Herald-Press Wednesday. “If federal authorities will hold people responsible for animal cruelty, I think it's great.”

The PACT bill, which includes specific exclusions for hunting, must next pass the Senate. A vote has not yet been scheduled.

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