February 15, 2019

Harris, Collins Reintroduce Legislation to Support Animals Rescued by Federal Government

Harris, Collins Reintroduce Legislation to Support Animals Rescued by Federal Government

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) reintroduced the Help Extract Animals from Red Tape (HEART) Act, bipartisan legislation that would better prioritize the wellbeing of animals by speeding up the legal process for federal animal fighting cases, holding offenders financially responsible for the care of animals in custody, and allowing courts to take into account animals’ welfare when considering legal delays.

Companion legislation in the House of Representatives has been introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) and Rep. John Katko (NY-24).

“Abusing animals and intentionally provoking them is wrong. When our government saves animals that have been victims of cruelty and abuse, we must do everything we can to ensure their welfare,” said Senator Harris. “I’m proud to reintroduce this bill to streamline the process of getting these animals the care they need and ensuring that they are properly cared for in the future.”

“Animals who have been rescued from cruelty and abuse deserve to be placed in loving homes as soon as it is safely possible,” said Senator Collins. “Based on recommendations by the Department of Justice’s Animal Cruelty Roundtable, the HEART Act 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 urge our colleagues to join us in support of this bipartisan bill to better help animals that have experienced inhumane treatment.”

“Dog fighting is a particularly heinous crime that must be stamped out, but, unfortunately, when the animals are seized, the cost and care often falls on local shelters,” said Rep. Chu. “Court proceedings can take over a year, which means the cost of doing the right thing can total millions of dollars. Additionally, shelters are unable to rehabilitate these animals until the proceedings have completed, which leaves animals stressed. It’s unjust that taxpayers and local shelters are picking up the tab for the care of these animals. This bill would help remedy that by allowing courts to consider animal welfare when determining trial expediency and requiring responsible parties to reimburse taxpayers and shelters for the cost of caring for animals. I am so pleased to be able work bipartisanly to help keep animals safe and place responsibility where it belongs. And today’s introduction of the HEART Act brings us one crucial step closer.” 

“Animals saved from fighting rings deserve to be matched with loving, caring homes. Furthermore, we must hold criminals legally and financially responsible for the abuse of these animals,” said Rep. Katko. “The HEART Act accomplishes both initiatives. Under this legislation, the disposition process is improved, animals spend less time in shelters, and individuals responsible for harming animals are required to pay the costs of the animals’ care. Animal abuse and neglect has no place in our society. I am proud to once again sponsor this legislation and will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to address this issue.”

Specifically, the HEART Act: 

  • Accelerates the disposition process by reducing from 60 to 30 days the amount of time the government has to notify interested parties following the seizure of animals under the federal animal fighting or gambling statues.
  • Requires the court to consider the animals’ welfare and the cost to the government when seeking to extend the notice period.
  • Requires claimants to reimburse the costs of caring for animals seized in federal animals fighting cases when the government prevails in civil forfeiture proceedings.
  • Gives judges the discretion to allow the consideration of the claimant’s culpability, financial condition, and other factors when requiring and determining the reimbursement. 

The HEART Act has been endorsed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

 “Dogfighting is a brutal ‘blood-sport’ in which innocent animals are forced to train, fight and suffer for the entertainment and profit of spectators,” said Richard Patch, vice president, federal affairs of ASPCA Government Relations. “These animals have suffered enough at the hands of their abusers, and the red tape of the federal forfeiture system should not be a barrier to their adoption. We are grateful to Senators Harris and Collins, and Representatives Chu and Katko, for championing the HEART Act to streamline the process to give these victims of cruelty the chance they deserve to find safe and loving homes.”

 “When dogs rescued from animal fighting rings can be rehabilitated, they deserve a chance for adoption into a loving home as quickly as possible,” said Sara Amundson, president of Humane Society Legislative Fund.  “The HEART Act treats these animals with compassion and holds the perpetrators accountable for the cost of their care while they are being held as evidence. It will encourage law enforcement to undertake these investigations and provide an additional deterrent against cruel animal fighting.  We commend Senators Collins and Harris for leading the way on this important legislation.”

Text of the bill can be found here.