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December 9, 2010

The HSUS Applauds Signing of Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act

WASHINGTON – The Humane Society of the United States lauded President Obama for signing into law H.R. 5566, the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010.  The statute immediately bans the creation and distribution of obscene animal torture videos that show the intentional crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating and impaling of puppies, kittens and other live animals for the titillation of viewers. Championed by Reps. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., the legislation had overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.

“The Humane Society of the United States commends President Obama for signing this bill into law and bringing an end to some of the most gruesome cruelty any of us have ever witnessed,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS.  “When federal courts struck down the 1999 animal cruelty depictions law, we saw a resurgence of animal crush videos. Congress swiftly passed more narrowly-tailored legislation to crack down on this horrific trade while addressing the courts’ concerns.  We are thankful that countless animals will now be spared from intentional torture for sick entertainment and profit.”   

Along with praising President Obama and the champions of the legislation – Reps. Gallegly and Peters and Sens. Kyl, Merkley, and Burr – The HSUS extends its deep thanks to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., Ranking Member Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. They recognized the seriousness of the problem and worked hard to address it quickly and effectively.  The HSUS also thanks Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Ted Poe, R-Texas, and Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and David Vitter, R-La., for their great help on the issue, along with all the members who cosponsored and voted for this important legislation. 

Background:

Animal crush videos typically involve scantily-clad women or girls often using stiletto heels to inflict the torment to satisfy a sexual deviancy for viewers. The torture is intentionally 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. 

In April, the Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Stevens 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. Investigations by The HSUS and others have uncovered a resurgence of crush videos for sale on the Internet since the court rulings. 

Timeline:

1999 – HSUS investigation uncovers more than 3,000 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., Jim 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 creation, 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, with the strong support of Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., Ranking Member Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va, unanimously approves H.R. 5566 by 23-0 vote.

July 21, 2010 – 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, monkeys, goats, rabbits and pigs.

Sept. 15, 2010 – The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing titled “Prohibiting Obscene Animal Crush Videos in the Wake of United States v. Stevens” called by Chairman Leahy and presided over by Senator Kyl.  The committee takes testimony from HSUS Vice President of Government Affairs Nancy Perry and from Dr. Kevin Volkan, a psychology expert who testifies 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 is entered in the record.

Sept. 27, 2010 – Sens. Kyl, Merkley, and Burr introduce the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010 as a substitute amendment to H.R. 5566.

Sept. 28, 2010 – H.R. 5566 passes the Senate by unanimous consent, with Kyl/Merkley/Burr substitute amendment.

Nov. 15, 2010 – The House concurs by voice vote (H.Res. 1712) in Senate-passed version of H.R. 5566, with minor amendments.

Nov. 19, 2010 – The Senate gives unanimous consent to the version of H.R. 5566 passed by the House on Nov. 15.

Dec. 9, 2010 – President Obama signs H.R. 5566 into law.

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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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