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September 15, 2010

The HSUS Urges U.S. Senate to Crack Down on Animal Crush Videos

WASHINGTON  The Humane Society of the United States Vice President of Government Affairs Nancy Perry testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing titled “Prohibiting Obscene Animal Crush Videos in the Wake of United States v. Stevens.” Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.  who plans to introduce legislation with Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., to ban interstate and foreign commerce of these videos  presided at the hearing. The animal torture videos show the intentional crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating and impaling of puppies, kittens and other live animals for the titillation of viewers.

“The crush video industry is thriving, in the wake of U.S. v. Stevens," Perry said. "Congress must pass legislation immediately to prevent the prolonged, sadistic torture of thousands of helpless animals. It is impossible to overstate the depth of the depravity of this sexual fetish or the despicability of those who seek to profit from it."

These videos typically involve scantily-clad women or girls often using stiletto heels to inflict the torment and speaking in a dominatrix patter or other sexual tones. It is drawn out for many minutes or even hours, during which time the animals’ cries and squeals are featured, along with their excretions of blood, urine and organs as they are crushed to death. 

Investigations by The HSUS and others have uncovered a massive resurgence of crush videos for sale on the Internet since the court rulings.

At the hearing, called by Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the committee also took testimony from Dr. Kevin Volkan, a psychology expert who testified on the sexual nature of animal crush videos. A letter from the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys urging prompt Senate action to address the animal crush video problem was entered in the record.

Timeline:

1999 – HSUS investigation uncovers more than 2,000 horrific animal crush videos available in the marketplace, selling for up to $300 apiece.

December 1999 – President Bill Clinton signs into law the Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act, banning 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. The market for crush videos disappears soon after enactment.

July 2008 – A federal appellate court declares the law unconstitutional.

December 2008 – The U.S. Solicitor General files a petition for certiorari requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court review and overturn the appellate court’s decision.

June 2009 – Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and The HSUS, joined by half of the country's state attorneys general, file amicus briefs urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the crush video ban.

September 2009 – The HSUS releases an investigation documenting the recent resurgence in horrific animal crush videos.

April 20, 2010 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules in United States v. Stevens that the Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act is “overbroad” and might capture depictions protected by the First Amendment, but acknowledges the long history of animal protection laws in the United States and leaves open a pathway for Congress to pass a more targeted law aimed at extreme animal cruelty.

April 21, 2010 – Reps. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., James Moran, D-Va., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and more than 50 other representatives introduce H.R. 5092 to end the intentional crushing, burning, drowning and impaling of puppies, kittens and other animals for the purpose of peddling videos of such extreme acts of animal cruelty.

May 18, 2010 – Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., introduces H.R. 5337 to end the sale and distribution of depictions of extreme animal cruelty.

May 26, 2010 – The House Judiciary Committee’s Crime Subcommittee holds a hearing and receives expert testimony from constitutional scholars and practitioners, as well as Reps. Gallegly and Peters, on the meaning of the Supreme Court’s opinion in the Stevens case and its implications for future legislation on crush videos.

June 22, 2010 – Reps. Gallegly and Peters and 220 other representatives introduce H.R. 5566, reflecting insights from the May 26 hearing and extensive bipartisan deliberations to fine-tune the earlier legislation.

June 23, 2010 – The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approves H.R. 5566 by a 23-0 vote.

July 21, 2010 – The U.S. House of Representatives approves H.R. 5566 by a 416-3 vote.

July 29, 2010 - The HSUS releases new evidence, based on a tip received from a Russian investigator, who identified through online forums numerous crush videos readily available for purchase for about $80. His investigation found dozens of video clips showing young girls and women maiming and killing animals including dogs, goats, monkeys, rabbits and pigs. Links to preview clips of animal crush videos are available to media on request.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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