In response to a case that began with a videotape allegedly produced by an Anaheim man, the U.S. Senate on Friday unanimously approved legislation that would outlaw the sale or distribution of animal cruelty videos across state lines.
The bill on so-called “crush videos” was drafted by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) and approved overwhelmingly by the House last month. It now goes to President Clinton, who is expected to sign it.
“This legislation is needed to protect animals from cruel and inhumane treatment, but it is also necessary because numerous studies have found that people who commit violent acts on animals will later commit violent acts on people,” Gallegly said.
The videos are part of a multimillion-dollar industry and sell for up to $300 apiece. They feature women, sometimes in spiked heels and sometimes barefoot, slowly crushing small animals, such as mice, kittens and hamsters, to death.
Law enforcement officials believe that some people derive sexual pleasure from the images.
The problem first came to the attention of Ventura County officials last year after the Humane Society in Washington said it was able to purchase a crush video on the Internet that had been produced in Thousand Oaks.
The Ventura County district attorney’s office investigated the case, but prosecutors were unable to file charges because the video was made in 1992, which exceeds the state statute of limitations under animal cruelty laws.
Under current law, people who make crush videos can be prosecuted only under animal cruelty laws, authorities said. Those same laws don’t prohibit the production or sale of crush videos.
The alleged producer of the video made in Thousand Oaks, 48-year-old Gary Thomason of Anaheim, has been charged with three counts of animal cruelty for allegedly making another crush video in the San Gabriel Valley.
He has pleaded not guilty in a Los Angeles County court and remains under investigation by Ventura County authorities.
If convicted under the federal law, a crush video distributor could get up to five years in prison.