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June 13, 2014

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Federal Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has reinstated the 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act and reversed a lower court’s ruling that had declared the law unconstitutional. In the first prosecution of its kind after the anti-crush law passed, two people in Texas were charged with creating and distributing videos that involved horrific acts of sexualized animal cruelty. However, the District Court held that the law, referred to as Section 48, was unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment.

The Fifth Circuit held that the law is constitutional as it only proscribes unprotected obscenity, and noted that Congress “has a significant interest in preventing the secondary effects of animal crush videos, which promote and require violence and criminal activity” and is justified in cracking down on “wanton torture and killing that, as demonstrated by federal and state animal-cruelty laws, society has deemed worthy of criminal sanction.” 

Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president of Animal Protection Litigation for The Humane Society of the United States said, “We applaud the court’s decision to reinstate this important legislation. Without it, countless animals could be subjected to intentional torture for sick entertainment and profit.”

Former Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), a primary author of the law said, “I am delighted that the court has ruled that there is no First Amendment defense for malicious abuse of animals. I am grateful to my colleagues in Congress and to The Humane Society of the United States for working so hard to get this right and to strengthen our federal anti-cruelty laws.”

Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus and co-author of the law banning animal torture videos, said, “Animal torture videos are heinous and completely unacceptable. This significant ruling will prevent disturbing animal torture and killing, and punish individuals who profit from these acts of animal cruelty. I’m proud to work with the Humane Society of the United States to protect animal welfare through common-sense and humane laws like this one.”

The HSUS submitted an amicus brief in 2013 in support of the United States and was represented by the firm Latham & Watkins LLP and by attorneys in its Animal Protection Litigation section. 

Congress recently upgraded federal law prohibiting dogfighting and cockfighting, and has made it a felony to knowingly bring a minor under the age of 16 to an animal fighting spectacle, and a federal misdemeanor to knowingly attend a fight as a spectator.

Click here for more information on the 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act. For the court’s full decision visit, www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/13/13-20265-CR0.pdf.

Media Contact: Kaitlin Sanderson: 301-721-6463; ksanderson@humanesociety.org

 

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