Senators Harris and Collins Introduce Senate Companion to HEART Act

Washington, DC — Today, in recognition of National Dog Fighting Awareness Day on April 8, Senators Kamala. D. Harris (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced S. 2633, 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. This bill is the Senate companion to legislation introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) and John Katko (NY-24). The House version was introduced in January 2017. The bill’s sponsors released the following statements:

“Animal cruelty such as dog fighting is a particularly heinous crime against a defenseless creature. Our government is rightfully vigilant and active in shutting down these rings, but 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 for the shelters who are taking care of these animals. Additionally, shelters are unable to rehabilitate these animals until the proceedings have completed, which leaves animals stressed and hostile. This bill would help remedy that by allowing courts to consider animal welfare when determining trial expediency and requiring responsible parties to provide for the cost of caring for their animals. I am so pleased to be able work bipartisanly to help keep animals safe and protected. And today’s introduction of the Senate version of the HEART Act brings us one crucial step closer.”

“I’m proud to have worked alongside Rep. Chu to champion the HEART Act, and commend our colleagues in the Senate for introducing this legislation,” said Rep. Katko. “Throughout our country, local shelters and nonprofit organizations – like the ASPCA – work tirelessly to provide safety, shelter, and care for abused animals seized by federal officials in fighting and gambling cases. However, the significant cost associated with providing such care is often placed on shelters and on the taxpayer. This bipartisan, bicameral measure will alleviate that burden by shifting the cost of care to the individual responsible. I’m proud to reintroduce this measure and will continue fighting to make it law.”

- Advertisement -

“All animals must be treated humanely, free from cruelty and abuse, as they often become extended members of our families,” said Senator Harris. “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,” said Senator Collins. “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 HEART Act would accomplish the following:

  • 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 statutes
  • Requires the court to consider the animals’ welfare as well as 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 animal 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 reimbursement