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Local congressman introduces new bill to stop the sale of animal cruelty videos

Gallegly When the Supreme Court struck down, on free-speech grounds, a law making it a federal crime to sell videos depicting animal cruelty, Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) had more than a passing interest.

He wrote the law.

On Wednesday, Gallegly responded swiftly to the ruling, introducing a "narrowly tailored" bill aimed at passing constitutional muster. The measure would target so-called animal crush videos, such as those showing women in high heels stomping on puppies and kittens.

The legislation comes a day after the court, in an 8-1 decision, overturned the conviction of a Virginia man prosecuted under Gallegly's "Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act" for selling dog-fighting videos. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the 1999 law was too broad and could allow prosecutions for selling hunting videos.

By Wednesday, Gallegly and Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.), co-chairmen of the Animal Protection Caucus, had written the new law and, within a couple of hours, lined up 55 of their colleagues, from both parties, as co-sponsors.

"Violence is not a 1st Amendment issue; it is a law enforcement issue," Gallegly said in a letter to colleagues. "You are not allowed to cry ‘fire' in a theater; you are not allowed to possess or distribute child pornography. You shouldn't be able to create and distribute videos that glorify the senseless killing of defenseless animals."

In an interview off the House chamber, Gallegly expressed hope the measure would pass Congress quickly.

Gallegly argued that the measure was needed not only to protect animals, but to guard against "the Jeffrey Dahmers of the world" who "began their killing sprees by cruelly inflicting pain on animals."

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said, "We think this is consistent with the court's ruling." Pacelle worked with Gallegly in drafting the new measure.

Pacelle said that before the 1999 law was enacted, his group found about 3,000 of the videos on the market, selling for up to $300 apiece. After Congress acted, the market all but disappeared, he said.

But after a federal appellate court declared the law unconstitutional in mid-2008, the videos again proliferated on the Internet, he said.

The new, three-page bill would prohibit the interstate sale of images of animals being "intentionally crushed, burned, drowned or impaled" unless they have "religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historic or artistic value." Violations would be punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000 or both. The bill says the prohibition would not apply to hunting videos.

But Andrew Tauber, a partner in the Chicago-based law firm of Mayer Brown who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of free-speech argument against the law, said the new measure would "still face serious constitutional challenge."

"Statutes and policies that discriminate against speech based on its content, as this bill would do, are …presumptively unconstitutional," he said.

Gallegly took up the issue in 1999 after the Ventura County district attorney ran into problems trying to prosecute a Thousand Oaks man selling over the Internet a video depicting animal cruelty.

-- Richard Simon

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Photo: Elton Gallegly in Congress in 2002. Credit: Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (16)

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It's laudable that a new law is immediately being drafted to combat this sick, sick, sick phenomenon. But I beseech the drafters to get the best legal and
Constitutional advice to makethe new law bullet-proof. It would be heartbreaking to go through all this again only to have the Supremes strike it down yet again.

Thank you!!! I was hoping something like this would happen. I cannot understand how Andrew Tauber could say it violates free speech. If that is true, then anything violent should apparently be legal to sell as video... rape, torture, snuff... oh wait, if it involves an animal then true, should be legal, but if it involves a human then it should be illegal? Is that what he is trying to say? If so, he is wrong.

When people tire of animal cruelty videos, then they will get their own animals to torture, when they tire of live animals, who's next? Its' not freedom of speech, its freedom to torture. Makes no sense.

Gallegly doesn't understand the meaning of free speech, but he's not only. It's typical for legislators to pander to the public. They only respect free speech and the Constitution when a ruling favors their opinion. Here's to hoping they lose their fight once again!

WOW the United States Supreme Court must love crush kitten videos-I can't figure out why they have a problem banning them. It's frightening to think those people make decisions. REALLY SERIOUSLY FRIGHTENING. In my opinion, no normal person would ever oppose such a ban - I believe only a pervert would think these videos are okay fine.

Gallegly just won't give up. Looking at the language of his law, would it be legal to videotape a hunting trip where hunters fire bullets through animals, skin them and eat them? Look on YouTube and see varmint hunter videos where hunters shoot ground squirrels and other pests.

These animal rights nuts need to understand that human beings are carnivores. An animal was fed grain, tied up and slit at the neck to give Elton Gallegly the meat in his carne asada.

Lets see, we are under some of the greatest financial pressures as a nation and lawmakers are using valuable time proposing a ban on animal cruelty video's? No wonder why we are such a bad mess. Congress, get some priorities and get America back to work!

There are some evil people in this world. Rep. Gallegly is absolutely right: this is a law enforcement issue, and these "people" need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Abusers start with animals and continue on with children and adults. Abusers shouldn't have any rights. They choose the path they take; the innocent animals and children don't.

Much good luck with getting this bill passed and that other states will adopt it soon thereafter!

Totally support this bill 100%.

The level of depravity that man (and in this case, some women) is capable of never ceases to sicken me. If these videos are produced solely for money-making purposes, then we truly are a doomed society.

What's sickening is that people would deliberately visit an animal blog to defend videos depicting animal cruelty. It is NOT a free speech issue, just as child porn is not a free speech issue. It's violence, and if the ACT of crushing an animal or letting them fight for (human) sport is a felony, making a videotaped record of that felony should not be legal. No one is saying you can't draw a picture of a dogfight, although it would certainly beg the question of what was wrong with you. What we're saying is you can't record a crime that ACTUALLY HAPPENED, which means you were there -- also a crime -- and then sell it and make money. It's not speech; if anything, it's racketeering.

This is going to sound snarky and I genuinely don't mean it that way, but it's very refreshing to see a Republican take this kind of stand. I absolutely applaud Rep. Gallegly for his immediate, prncipled stand on this issue.

That being said, taking the name of a Groucho Marx character and using it in a post to minimize the importance of animal cruelty is pretty pathetic.

Both the only dissenter of the original law's strike-down, Justice Samuel Alito, and the law's author, Rep. Elton Gellegly, are what it means to be real men, whether they're perfect or not. Both Republicans...for once I'm not ashamed to be registered with that party, very proud of them. Anyone defending "crush" videos and the like as free speech is a foul sick piece of trash, and if there's a hell it's custom made for them and the makers and fans of these pathetic, shameful exhibitions of human idiocy and retarded evil. Vegan ftw.

I congratulate the Congressman for taking a stand on behalf of the voiceless in this world! Animal crush and dog fighting videos are an abomination and should be outlawed simply as a matter of common sense and decency.

I think this article sets forth the salient issues in a succinct and informative manner. The analysis is spot on. The goal should be to prevent the sale of these videos. That, in turn, will eliminate the act of creating the videos. I am alarmed that the market for these videos resurfaced itself after the Appellate court ruling in 2008. That is my main concern about the current Supreme Court ruling in the Stevens case, a few days ago. During the time it takes for members of Congress to draft and enact a more 'narrowly tailored' statute that will pass judicial scrutiny, countless animals will suffer needlessly.

The revised - Gallegly -= bill includes so many exceptions that vicious greedy individuals who benefit from torture films will find all the "wiggle room" they need to continue their nefarious inhumane work .

Wow, some people actually opposed this new bill? I don't get it though, wouldn't the people distributing the videos be arrested for animal cruelty anyway? Still, this is disgusting.


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