The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund commend the U.S. House of Representatives for overwhelmingly approving H.R. 5566 by a vote of 416-3 to provide law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on traffickers of animal crush videos.
This narrowly crafted statute, introduced by Reps. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif. and Gary Peters, D-Mich., with 263 cosponsors, will ban interstate and foreign commerce in obscene videos showing the intentional crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, and impaling of puppies, kittens, and other live animals for the sexual titillation of viewers.
H.R. 5566 was introduced in response to the April Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Stevens. The Court ruled that a l999 law on depictions of animal cruelty was "overbroad" because it might criminalize some Constitutionally protected speech. The Court acknowledged the long history of animal protection laws in the United States and left open a pathway for Congress to pass a more targeted law aimed at extreme animal cruelty.
"By enacting H.R. 5566, Congress can provide a top kill to a merciless subculture of animal crushing videos that have bubbled up in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling on the subject in April," said Wayne Pacelle, president & CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "This legislation is narrowly tailored to address the Court's concerns, and the current legislation does not limit speech, but only conduct of the most abhorrent and vile kind."
"Violence is not a First Amendment issue; it is a law enforcement issue," Rep. Gallegly said. "Ted Bundy and Ted Kaczynski tortured or killed animals before killing people. The FBI, U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice consider animal cruelty to be one of the early warning signs of potential violence by youths. This bill is one step toward ending this cycle of violence."
"Animal torture videos are heinous, barbaric and completely unacceptable and we're going to stop them once and for all," said Rep. Peters. "It's hard to believe that this sort of thing even exists, and that a new law is needed to prevent it. Animal torture is outrageously disturbing and common decency and morality dictates that those engaged in it shouldn't be profiting from it, they should be in prison."
The HSUS and HSLF express their strong gratitude to Congressmen Gallegly and Peters for working to protect animals from malicious acts of cruelty. The groups also thank Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., Ranking Member Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., for their leadership in addressing this problem swiftly, and Congressmen Jim Moran, D-Va., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., for their long-standing involvement on the issue, along with all the members who cosponsored and voted for this important legislation.
In 1999, an HSUS investigation uncovered an underground subculture of animal crush videos in which puppies, kittens and other small animals are stomped, smothered and pierced to death, often by women wearing high-heeled shoes, to cater to those with a fetish for viewing this cruel behavior.
Legislation originally introduced by Rep. Gallegly and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1999 banned the creation, sale, and possession for interstate or foreign commerce of depictions of illegal and intentional maiming, mutilating, torture, wounding, or killing of a living animal.
Before the 1999 law was enacted, there were approximately 3,000 horrific animal crush videos available in the marketplace, selling for up to $300 apiece.
That market disappeared soon after Congress enacted the 1999 law with overwhelming bipartisan support, but since a federal appellate court declared the law unconstitutional in July 2008, crush videos have once again proliferated on the Internet.
The House Judiciary Committee's Crime Subcommittee took expert testimony at a May 26 hearing, and the full Judiciary Committee unanimously approved H.R. 5566 by a vote of 23-0 on July 23.
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