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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Senate Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedApril 9th, 2018

What is it?

This bill — known as the Help Extract Animals from Red Tape (HEART) Act of 2018 — would expedite the disposition process for animals seized in federal animal fighting cases, hold offenders financially responsible for the care of animals in custody, and allow courts to take animals’ welfare into account when considering legal delays.

Specifically, this bill would:

  • Accelerate the disposition process by reducing the notice period following the seizure of animals under federal animal fighting or gambling statutes from 60 to 30 days;

  • Require courts to consider animals’ welfare and costs to the government when seeking to extend the notice period;

  • Require claimants to reimburse the costs of caring for animals seized in federal animal fighting cases when the government prevails in civil forfeiture proceedings; and

  • Give judges to discretion to allow the consideration of the claimant’s culpability, financial condition, and other factors when requiring and determining the reimbursement.

Impact

Animal fighting rings; animal rescue organizations; animal shelters; federal prosecutors trying animal fighting cases; abused animals; and defendants in animal fighting cases.

Cost

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced this bill to expedite the disposition process for animals seized in federal animal fighting cases, hold offenders financially responsible for the care of animals in custody, and let courts take animals’ welfare into account when considering legal delays:

“All animals must be treated humanely, free from cruelty and abuse, as they often become extended members of our families. We must do all we can to ensure that the welfare of these animals who have been victims of cruelty is a priority, and remove any red tape that prevents them from being properly and safely cared for.”

Original cosponsor Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) adds that this bill is based on recommendations from the DOJ’s Animal Cruelty Roundtable:

“Animals who have been rescued from cruelty and abuse deserve to be placed in loving homes as soon as it is safely possible. Our legislation, which is based on recommendations by the Department of Justice’s Animal Cruelty Roundtable, would reduce the minimum amount of time animals must be held in shelters and alleviate the financial burdens that fall on those who care for seized animals. I have long advocated for policies that improve the welfare of animals, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation to help protect animals that have experienced inhumane treatment.”

The ASPCA, which supports this bill, says:

“When the ASPCA assists law enforcement during dogfighting raids, we often find dogs—even puppies—tethered to heavy chains, living without food, water or proper shelter, and horrifically wounded and scarred. After medical attention and rehabilitation, many dogs rescued from these cruel situations can go on to enjoy happy lives in loving homes. But sadly, in many instances animals can suffer in limbo while the abusers’ court cases progress through an often slow-moving legal system. The lengthy holding periods in federal animal fighting cases can result in debilitating stress and health problems for the animals involved, even when shelters provide high-quality care. Also, the astronomical cost of holding and caring for seized animals for long periods unnecessarily burdens animal protection groups and local shelters. These problems can discourage future animal fighting investigations, meaning fewer animals get saved. The HEART Act (H.R. 398/S. 2633) seeks to address these issues by requiring the owners of animals seized in federal animal fighting cases to be responsible for the cost of their care. The bill will also expedite the processes to get these animals rehabilitated and adopted into safe and loving homes faster.”

There are 10 cosponsors of this bill, including one Republican and nine Democrats. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Humane Society, National Sheriffs’ Association, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and National Humane Education Society also support this bill.


Of NoteAnimal fighting is a staged fight between two or more animals, or between a human and an animal, for the purpose of human entertainment, wagering, or sport. In some instances, one of the animals may be a “bait animal” used for sport or training. In the U.S., the three most common types of animal fighting are dogfighting, cockfighting, and hog-dog fighting. In recent years, the most prominent animal fighting case in the U.S. was that of former NFL star quarterback Michael Vick, who ran a kennel called “Bad Newz Kennels” that housed and trained over 50 pitbulls, staged dog fights, killed dogs, and ran a high-stakes gambling ring with purses up to $26,000.

In organized animal fighting cases in which law enforcement seize the animals in a raid, there are usually many animals that must be cataloged as evidence, provided with medical treatment, and sheltered for the duration of the court case. Recent dogfighting raids have resulted in the seizures of anywhere from one to nearly 500 dogs, with an average of 35 dogs per case. Often, animals seized in dogfighting raids have specific medical and behavioral needs, and their housing, assessment, and disposition can be complicated and expensive. Additionally, security precautions may be necessary at the shelter due to the risk of animals from “champion bloodlines” being stolen.

For animals held as evidence, lengthy forfeiture cases leave them in shelters for months, unable to be rehabilitated or put up for adoption. Due to the amount of time they spend in shelters, chronic stress leads to greater serious physical and behavioral deterioration for these animals.

Currently, the costs of caring for animals rescued from abuse are rarely, if ever, reimbursed by those who abused the animals — they’re paid by nonprofit animal protection organizations and local and federal funds. The financial responsibility local municipalities take on to pay for the care of abused animals discourages future animal abuse investigations and seizures.

There’s an existing federal statute, the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act (2007), that imposes federal penalties for interstate commerce, import, and export relating to commerce in fighting dogs, fighting cocks, and cockfighting paraphernalia. Each violation of this Act can result in up to three years in jail and a $250,000 fine.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / luxiangjian4711)

AKA

HEART Act of 2018

Official Title

A bill to amend title 18, United States Code, with respect to civil forfeitures relating to certain seized animals, and for other purposes.

    We need to hold those accountable for such abuse to animals. Stabilizing the animal and finding it a good home should come short after.
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    What the Hell is wrong with you people! Now you want to regulate chicken fighting? Damn it read the Constitution, do YOUR job! This is what you’re wasting time on? When’s the last time you passed a budget? Have still 100s to approve of president’s nominees. You wonder why people have more respect for realtors and used car salesmen!
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    I voted Nay to being available for adoption sooner just because in my opinion these animals have been trained for fighting and need to be rehabilitated professionally before integrating them into a home where they could potentially encounter other animals and engage in an aggressive manner due to how they were conditioned to fight. But I definitely support measures penalizing those who engage in such inhumane practices and do believe eventually these animals should be available for adoption into caring homes, but only after they are rehabilitated/domesticated properly.
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    I wholeheartedly support this and any other bill that throws the cost of rehabilitation for the animals and rehoming them back on the perpetrators involved in their abuse. Likewise for the expenses involved in their prosecution. These animals should be given every opportunity to be put back into loving homes as soon as is reasonable.
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    They need proper reeducation before they get adopted.
    Like (27)
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    These offenders need to be held accountable for their actions.
    Like (21)
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    These animals who were trained to fight should be given a chance to be adopted into a loving home because they had no choice but to be trained to fight and deserve a chance to live a normal life.
    Like (17)
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    100% they deserve a chance and their suffering should not unnecessarily continue.
    Like (13)
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    Be humane, be human.
    Like (11)
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    Most these animals will not recover from the abuse and training they have received, it’s very unfortunate that the best method maybe euthanasia with these animals.
    Like (10)
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    If these animals are adoptabl meaning they can be retrained, the cost for these measures and their care should come from those responsible for these animal’s abuse.
    Like (9)
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    If we are subjecting animals to harsh environments and cruelty, it seems fair that people are accountable for their recovery and reintegration into normal life. Please vote yes!
    Like (8)
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    These animals are forced to fight, so instead of keeping them in a cage for a longer period of time, they should be put in homes where they are showed, for the very first time, what love is.
    Like (7)
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    This is seems like a great idea. I don’t see any reason to not be in favor of this.
    Like (6)
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    Animals should have the right to good homes. I am all on board for this. I only see some issues in speeding up the adoption process, but I think it’s worth it. Animals should be able to go to good homes.
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    Animals shouldn’t be used to fight each other. It’s messed up.
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    No, some of them cannot be broken from fighting with possibility of turning against new owners.
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    All animals matter.
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    The earlier these animals are given care and attention through adoption, the more likely they will survive. Offenders, by their actions, obviously lack empathy and remorse, so making them financially responsible for the care of the animals they’ve used for monetary gain may be the only thing that discourages them from repeating their crimes.
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    Depending on temperament, some of them should probably be put down as humanly as possible.
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