WASHINGTON – The House on Monday voted to ban so-called crush videos that depict the abuse and killing of animals.
The measure would revive, with some modifications, a 1999 law that was struck down by the Supreme Court last April on the grounds it was too broadly written and violated First Amendment free speech protections.
Congress has been trying since then to come up with a more narrowly crafted law, and the measure the House passed still differs slightly from a version approved by the Senate in September. It now goes back to the Senate.
"We need a law that stays on the books," House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said in explaining the decision to tinker with the Senate language.
The bill was the first to be taken up in the lame-duck session of Congress that opened Monday.
The legislation, which the House originally passed in July, would make it a crime to sell or distribute videos that violate bans on animal cruelty by showing animals being burned, drowned, suffocated or impaled.
Such videos appeal to a sexual fetish by showing women, often barefoot or wearing high heels, stomping small animals to death.
Every state bans animal cruelty, but it has been difficult to apply those laws to crush videos because they often do not show faces, dates or locations. The legislation makes interstate sale of such videos a crime subject to fines and imprisonment.
Conyers said the House took out a Senate provision that made punishments for attempting or conspiring to make the videos equal to punishments for a completed product. He said that could cause constitutional issues.
Betsy Dribben, vice president for government relations at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, expressed frustration at the delay. "We're concerned about the animals being killed and we're also concerned about the social ramifications," she said, citing opinions that cruelty to animals can be a catalyst to violence against humans.
Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., a sponsor of the original bill in 1999, said in a previous statement that famed killers such as Ted Bundy and Ted Kaczynski tortured or killed animals before killing people.
The legislation makes exceptions for films depicting hunting, trapping and fishing.
The bill is H.R. 5566