Supreme Court May Hear Case
Washington D.C. - In mid December, it was reported that the Department of Justice asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up an animal cruelty case, arguing that an appeals court erred in declaring unconstitutional a federal law that bans selling depictions of animals being tortured. The first case to go to trial under the new law -- passed in 1999 -- involved Robert J. Stevens, a Virginia man who sold videos of pit bulls fighting and killing pigs. He was charged with three counts of selling depictions of animal cruelty.
Recently, the New York Times provided more insight into the 1999 law. About a decade ago Congress made it a crime to sell "crush videos" and almost all other depictions of unlawful cruelty to animals. If you have not seen a crush video, please do not start now. Often they involve a woman wearing high-heeled shoes that crushes a small animal to death. This occurs as the small animal cries out in pain. Congress termed the behavior as "a very specific sexual fetish" and criminalized the depiction of it.
There are two important questions at stake now. The first is whether or not the "crush video" animal cruelty depiction can be expanded to include depictions of dogfighting and other acts of animal cruelty. The other question is whether or not the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case.1 The Times is under the inclination that the Court will. This is partly because the United States solicitor general asked them to and also because the case involves a federal statute that has been held unconstitutional.
Professor Volokh, a First Amendment specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said he believed the 1999 law was unconstitutional, and predicted that the Supreme Court would strike it down. Yet it is always difficult to judge how the Court will rule. The current Justice Department has pursued at least three prosecutions under the law, all involving videos of dogfights. It would certainly be a victory for dogs and communities if the video depiction of dogfighting was formally outlawed.
12/12/08: Edward Faron of Wildside Kennels Has Been Charged by Authorities
11/16/08: Massive Dogfighting Sting in Harris County, Texas