FLORIDA -- A bill that prevents the slaughter of dogs and cats for meals was passed by the U.S. House on Wednesday.

The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2018, sponsored by Florida Congressmen Vern Buchanan and Alcee Hastings, amends the federal Animal Welfare Act of prohibit the slaughter of dogs and cats for the purpose of human consumption in the U.S. 

The practice is still legal in 44 states, despite how beloved dogs and cats are for most Americans. 

A restaurant in Philadelphia was closed several years ago after a worker was caught slaughtering cats chained in the basement to be served as meals, according to the Animal Welfare Institute. 

Buchanan said these animals are beloved companions in households across America and deserve this special protection. 

“Dogs and cats provide love and companionship to millions of people and should not be slaughtered and sold as food,” Buchanan said. 

Buchanan said he is optimistic the Senate will take up the bill before Congress adjourns this fall. 

Hastings added, “I am pleased to again work with Rep. Buchanan to advocate for banning the dog and cat meat trade in America. This bill is a reflection of our values and gives us a greater standing in urging all other countries to end this horrific practice once and for all. I look forward to working to ensure its swift passage.”

A second measure is also expected to be approved by the House today, urging China, South Korea, and other countries to outlaw and enforce existing laws against the trade of dog and cat meat. 

“The United States should be a leader against this inhumane and unsafe industry,” Buchanan said.

Sara Amundson, Humane Society Legislative Fund president, said, “We are so pleased that the House passed H.R. 6720, a bill to prohibit the horrific cruelty of the dog and cat meat trade, along with H. Res. 401 urging other nations to adopt and enforce laws banning the dog and cat meat trade."