In July 2009, the Federal Depiction of Animal Cruelty Law was overturned by the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that animal cruelty films were protected as free speech. The ruling resulted in an increase in so-called "animal crush" videos on the internet, in which small animals are intentionally tortured and crushed. And in April 2010, a defendant being prosecuted for marketing and selling videos showing pit bull dogs attacking each other and other animals in staged fights was released after the judge ruled that the law goes against the constitutional right of freedom of speech.
The only existing law that is in contradiction of freedom of speech is that which governs child pornography. At the time, Chief Justice John Roberts concluded that Congress had failed to show that depictions of dog fights justified a special category of exclusion from the right of free speech. As an example, the law would prevent even a news agency from producing an undercover documentary that included evidence of dog fighting.
This month the United States Senate has passed a new bill – the Prevention of Interstate Commerce in Animal Crush Videos Act of 2010 – in an attempt to counter this industry without violating freedom of speech rights. The law dictates that people convicted of selling or distributing a "crush video" could be sentenced to up to five years in prison. President Obama is now being urged to quickly sign the bill into law.
"Crush videos depict an extreme form of animal cruelty. The deliberate torture of animals is not just a concern because of the animal cruelty involved, but because studies have shown that there is a link between animal cruelty and violence against humans. By passing the Prevention of Interstate Commerce in Animal Crush Videos Act, the United States Congress is potentially helping to prevent other serious violent crimes. This vote moves us one step closer to turning this bill into federal law, and the ASPCA is hopeful President Obama will voice his conclusive support for this important legislation," said Ann Church, senior director of ASPCA Government Relations.