Fifth Circuit Rules that Animal Crush Video Law Prohibits Obscenity and Congress Has Significant Interest in Preventing Animal Cruelty

Posted by Lora Dunn, Staff Attorney, Criminal Justice Program on June 17, 2014


On June 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the “Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010” (“the Act”) is Constitutional on its face because it prohibits “obscenity” not protected by the First Amendment, and that Congress has a “significant interest” in preventing the violence and criminal activity that these heinous videos necessitate.

The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded a 2013 ruling by the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas, which had held that animal crush videos are not obscene and that the Act violated defendants’ First Amendment rights. In 2012, defendants Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Justice were arrested in Houston and charged with violating the Act for producing and selling obscene videos of Richards torturing dogs, cats, and other animals for the sexual gratification of viewers.

The Fifth Circuit agreed with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) that the district court should have applied the Supreme Court’s three-part test for obscenity established in the case of Miller v. California, rather than relying on the “variable and debatable” legislative history of the Act. ALDF filed its amicus brief, along with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, in August 2013.

In the 2010 case of U.S. v. Stevens, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that an earlier version of the Act from 1999 was unconstitutional; Congress swiftly and nearly unanimously passed an amended version of the Act in 2010. Today, the Fifth Circuit ruled that this second and current version of the Act is Constitutional on its face because it serves the “significant interest” of preventing the violence to animals promoted and required by such videos, and was “reasonably tailored” to meet that interest, in part because the Act now exempts lawful activities like hunting, normal veterinary practices, and customary agricultural practices.

Significantly for victim animals, the Fifth Circuit looked to the “long history and substantial consensus” of animal cruelty laws in this country, emphasizing that animal cruelty “is so antisocial that it has been made criminal” in every state. As a practical matter, the Court also acknowledged that because of the “clandestine manner in which animal crush videos are made,” it is difficult for state law enforcement to target the underlying cruelty that these videos depict—furthering the need for the Act.

ALDF applauds the Fifth Circuit for this landmark ruling that acknowledges Congress’s compelling interest in combatting the egregious animal cruelty inherent in animal crush videos.

26 thoughts on “Fifth Circuit Rules that Animal Crush Video Law Prohibits Obscenity and Congress Has Significant Interest in Preventing Animal Cruelty

  1. sheila Orff says:

    This cruelty with animals has to stop..these people are sick…

  2. Kathy Efthymiakopoulos says:

    Please investigate !!

  3. Renare says:

    all the laws of culture laws and animals cruelty laws are anti-life and extremely dangerous to our animals and to the extent of human safety, as long this weak and supportive laws exist humanity is not safe from the killers that can run free among us without being punished for their crimes towards animals in using them for pointless experiments that have no benefit for human conditions. What more you need to wake up
    then millions of dead animals and people, to finally change the law to

  4. Nada Sahraoui says:

    I think this must be the lares sickest things some human do! It’s not okay, it’s disgusting and disturbing! What is wrong with these people? Make it stop!


  6. Annette Howell says:

    I think if imprisonment or legal punishment doesn’t work – a sort of video camera should be implanted in these violator’s foreheads, then they can be permanently monitored so it WON’T happen again, or else!

    1. Francene Alexander says:

      I think your idea is fantastic however the cretins will put duct tape over the lens so that it can monitor nothing.

  7. Janette Nordstrom says:

    These acts that are going on I consider animal cruelty! No animal should have to suffer! Please stop this!

  8. Gloria Geter says:

    Stop animal crush videos!!! It’s cruelty, and immoral !!! People who torture animals belong in prison !!!

  9. TC Koh says:

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”― Mahatma Gandhi

  10. Mari Hill says:

    Again this is sick…treating poor animals in that manner for the entertainment of sick crazy people…this must be stopped.

  11. This is extremely cruel and must b stopped. These people are sick !!

  12. Johna1 says:

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  13. This sickens me how animal abusers are protected! All laws should be updated, gherrr!

  14. John says:

    Animal cruelty and These people must be sent to a mentalhospital! And strange enough mostly Asiens, but they dont have any empathy towards animals! This must be not leagell?!

  15. Phyllis says:

    We need to put a bullet in these peoples head. They are sick and will not stop…

  16. Joan Pool says:

    Another tool, I hope those that can use it, will. We must stop this atrocity!!

  17. J says:

    Death penalty for Animal abusers caught doing this would be wonderful. Please film their executions too

  18. Catherine Joyner says:

    Don’t use your phone on the toilet don’t film this horrific stuff, common sense!

  19. This is an evil that must be stopped. First amendment should not be allowed to appy to evil.

  20. Lennart Herlin says:

    Living in Europe I would think that this is against the law here but I would say that the punishment is too low. I agree with those who wants severe punishment for these perverted monsters.

  21. Iman says:

    How about we make “animal abuser crush videos?” That would solve the problem right there!

  22. Crissy Miller says:

    Please Please stop this, this is horrific, and there is no reason to treat any animal like this.
    Just please do the right thing!

  23. C.T. says:

    It is a proven fact a person that harms their dog will more than likely harm their child…now we need to abolish circuses!!!

  24. Veronica A. says:

    I have info, several crimes and sexual abuses and Experiments with animals that i want to report, people has all crimes with animals and made ilegal profit under this abuses. It has to be stop and persecuted . Animal Legal Defense, must to help us Animal Activist asap. thanks…

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