Congress strengthens animal enterprise terrorism law

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One of the last remaining acts of the 109th Congress was passing the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which makes it a federal crime to harass and commit violence against companies or persons associated with animal enterprises, such as laboratories, circuses, and pet stores.

Following the Senate's lead, the House of Representatives passed the legislation with bipartisan support Nov. 13, and, as of press time in November, President Bush was expected to sign it into law.

The new law closes loopholes in the current Animal Enterprise Protection Act that were exploited by animal rights extremists, according to the National Association for Biomedical Research, which championed the bill supported by the AVMA.

One such loophole is tertiary targeting, or third-party targeting, which happens when property damage, violence, or threats of violence are committed against businesses or individuals having a relationship with an animal enterprise. Animal rights extremists have adopted this tactic as a means of putting a particular research laboratory out of business.

Violators of the law would face prison, restitution, and fines.

Several members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA Inc. were recently sentenced to federal prison on convictions stemming from a campaign of harassment and intimidation against individuals and organizations in the associated with Huntingdon Life Sciences (see JAVMA, Nov. 1, 2006).

Huntingdon is an international research company based in the United Kingdom, with a laboratory in New Jersey.

The U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case had to use various laws to get a successful conviction. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act gives law enforcement and prosecutors the tools to investigate and successfully prosecute national campaigns against animal enterprises and those associated with them.

The Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the bill as being overly broad and criminalizing First Amendment activities, such as demonstrations, leafleting, and undercover investigations.