On Thursday, December 9, at a ceremony at the White House, President Barack Obama signed the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010 into law. The new law prohibits the creation and distribution of “crush videos” and establishes a penalty of up to seven years in prison.
In April 2010, the United States Supreme Court struck down the original “Crush Act” (the Depictions of Animal Cruelty Act), a federal law passed in 1999, finding its language to be overbroad and unconstitutional. The law was meant to stop the creation and sale of crush videos and other depictions of illegal acts of animal cruelty. The animal welfare and law enforcement communities have been concerned that lack of a federal law to prohibit crush videos would lead to resurgence in their trade—done mostly via the Internet—which was suppressed effectively by the 1999 law.
The Court’s ruling did leave the door open for the Act to be rewritten—and to their credit, several members of Congress wasted no time in drafting and introducing amendments that would 1) withstand test of constitutionality, and 2) address one of the Court’s main problems with the original Act by including exemptions for visual depictions of hunting, trapping, and fishing. The Senate version of the legislation was introduced by U.S. Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Richard Burr (R-NC); the House version was introduced by Representatives Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and Gary Peters (D-MI).
“The ASPCA has long recognized the dangerous potential for animal cruelty to lead to more serious crimes,” says Dr. Randall Lockwood, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Forensic Sciences and Anti-Cruelty Projects. “By banning crush videos, our federal government is potentially helping to protect the community from other serious crimes and sending a clear message to individuals seeking to profit from the suffering of helpless animals. This law protects both animals and free speech by focusing specifically on crush videos, which clearly have no place in our society.”
The Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act has a narrower focus than the 1999 law, but still prohibits creating or distributing depictions of non-human animals being intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury.