Bush inks amended version of Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2006:

WASHINGTON D.C.–U.S. President George W.
Bush on November 27, 2006 signed into law the
Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. AETA extends to
animal industry workers the provisions of the
1982 Animal Enterprise Protection Act, which
covered only property.
Sent to Bush in final form on November
13, AETA is expected to be the last major piece
of animal-related legislation passed by the
Republican majority who had controlled both the
U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives
since the 1994 midterm Congressional election.
Control of both the House and the Senate
passed to the Democrats in the November 2006
midterm election. Opponents declared immediately
their intent to challenge AETA in court and seek
amendments in the next Congress, but support for
AETA was strong among both parties, and despite
allegations that AETA may infringe on civil
liberties, in final form it was not opposed by
the American Civil Liberties Union.

In final form, AETA was cosponsored by
California Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, a
former two-term mayor of San Francisco, who has
simultaneously one of the strongest pro-animal
voting records in Congress, one of the strongest
records for civil liberties, and a record of
favoring biomedical research, for which she was
honored in 2004 by the American Cancer Society.
Throughout her political career Feinstein has
often been closely aligned with Nancy Pelosi
(D-California), who will be the House Speaker
when the new Congress convenes in January 2007.
AETA provides that “Whoever travels in
interstate or foreign commerce, or uses or
causes to be used the mail or any facility of
interstate or foreign commerce҆for the purpose of
damaging or interfering with the operations of an
animal enterprise; and in connection with such
purpose,” shall be guilty of a federal crime,
if the person “intentionally damages or causes
the loss of any real or personal property
(including animals or records) used by an animal
enterprise, or any real or personal property of
a person or entity having a connection to,
relationship with, or transactions with an
animal enterprise,” or “intentionally places a
person in reasonable fear of the death of, or
serious bodily injury to that person, a member
of the immediate family of that person, or a
spouse or intimate partner of that person by a
course of conduct involving threats, acts of
vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass,
harassment, or intimidation; or conspires or
attempts to do so.”
Much of the text of the bill defines the
possible penalities for various levels of
offense, and defines the scope of coverage.
“The term ‘animal enterprise’ means,”
according to AETA, “a commercial or academic
enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal
products for profit, food or fiber production,
agriculture, education, research, or testing;
a zoo, aquarium, animal shelter, pet store,
breeder, furrier, circus, or rodeo, or other
lawful competitive animal event; or any fair or
similar event intended to advance agricultural
arts and sciences.”
The inclusion of animal shelters
potentially allows AETA to be used against
dogfighters who break into shelters to steal pit
bull terriers and “bait dogs,” a problem that
surfaced in the mid-1990s and has occurred with
increasing frequency. Thefts of shelter dogs by
dogfighters are known to have occurred in three
states in 2006. Alleged fighters are suspected
but have not been caught in connection with many
other cases.
The final version of AETA incorporates a
stipulation introduced as an August 2006
amendment by Senator Feinstein that “the term
‘economic damage’ ҆ does not include any lawful
economic disruption (including a lawful boycott)
that results from lawful public, governmental,
or business reaction to the disclosure of
information about an animal enterprise.”
The Feinstein amendments also stipulate
under “Rules of Construction” that “Nothing in
this section shall be construed (1) to prohibit
any expressive conduct (including peaceful
picketing or other peaceful demonstration)
protected from legal prohibition by the First
Amendment to the Constitution” or “(2) to create
new remedies for interference with activities
protected by the free speech or free exercise
clauses of the First Amendment to the
Constitution, regardless of the point of view
The Feinstein amendments came after
national animal advocacy groups had promoted
opposition to AETA for months. Most continued to
issue legislative alerts opposing AETA,
including the American SPCA, Animal Protection
Institute, Farm Animal Reform Movement, Friends
of Animals, Humane Society of the U.S., In
Defense of Animals, and PETA.
But the bill was not opposed by Steve
Hindi of SHARK, who has been among the most
tactically aggressive U.S. animal advocates since
1991. “I read the bill carefully,” Hindi told
ANIMAL PEOPLE, “and since everything we do is
legal, I don’t see where any of it applies to
Wisconsin National Primate Research
Center director Joseph Kemnitz told Doug Erickson
of the Wisconsin State Journal that researchers
sought the passage of AETA in part because of the
effects on crowds of video trucks like the SHARK
“Tiger” and Minnesota attorney Lori Peterson’s
“Black Beauty” in home demonstrations.
Home demos in Britain have several times
escalated into home invasions and assaults on the
occupants, but U.S. home protests have stopped
at property damage.
University of Wisconsin at Madison
School of Veterinary Medicine associate professor
Eric Sandgren told Erickson that AETA is “kind of
like a back-up. There needn’t be indecision for
events that do cross the line.”
Said National Associat-ion for
Biomedical Research president Francine Trull,
who pushed AETA for seven years, “This is not
intended to say that all animal rights activists
are terrorists. That’s just silly.”
AETA gradually gained bipartisan
support after 2001, but only became a
Congress-ional priority in 2006.

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