U.S. Senators Harris & Collins Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Support Rescues From Federal Animal Fighting Cases

Photo from the South Pasadenan

In recognition of National Dog Fighting Awareness Day which was on April 8th, this week Senators Kamala. D. Harris (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Help Extract Animals from Red Tape (HEART) Act, bipartisan legislation that 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 into account the animals’ welfare when considering legal delays.

“All animals must be treated humanely, free from cruelty and abuse, as they often become extended members of our families,” noted Senator Harris in an official statement released by the offices of both Senators. “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.”

“Animals who have been rescued from cruelty and abuse deserve to be placed in loving homes as soon as it is safely possible,” Senator Collins said in the statement.  “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 sheltering and care of animals rescued from dogfighting operations can last months or even years which is extremely expensive for shelters and rescues according to Matt Bershadker, President and CEO of the ASPCA; further noting that “the long federal process can take a toll on animal victims as well as be causing local agencies to think twice before intervening in new cases.” 

As per the official joint statement, 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.

This bill is the Senate companion to legislation that was introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) and John Katko (NY-24). The House version was introduced in January 2017 and has received widespread bipartisan support with 66 co-sponsors.

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