Rep. Katko Reintroduces Bipartisan Bill to Protect Abused Animals & Reduce Burden on Taxpayers

April 8, 2021
Press Release

SYRACUSE, NY— U.S. Rep. John Katko (R, NY-24) today announced reintroduction of the Help Extract Animals from Red Tape (HEART) Act. This legislation protects animals victimized by fighting rings and transfers the cost of care from taxpayers to those responsible for harming these animals. Rep. Katko reintroduced the bipartisan measure alongside U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D, CA-27).

When animals fall victim to cruelty and are seized in federal dogfighting busts, they often endure months or even years-long stays in shelters as the related cases make their way through the federal court system. During this period, animal welfare agencies house, feed, and provide veterinary and behavioral care to seized animals, with taxpayers and the animal welfare agencies left to foot the bill. The HEART Act expedites the disposition process for animals, allowing them to be quickly placed in a home, and holds the perpetrators responsible for the cost of the victims’ recovery. 

“Under current law, neglected or abused animals that are seized by federal authorities often endure long stays in shelters as they await trial decisions in the federal court system. In the meantime, taxpayers are forced to bear the cost for the care shelters provide, instead of the perpetrator,” said Rep. Katko. “The HEART Act transfers financial responsibility for these animals from taxpayers to those responsible for abusing and neglecting the animal. It also improves the disposition process so animals can be matched more quickly with loving, caring homes.”

“Animal fighting is a horrific ‘blood-sport’ in which innocent victims are forced to train, fight and suffer for the debased entertainment and profit of spectators,” said Richard Patch, vice president of federal affairs for the ASPCA. “Animals rescued in federal animal fighting cases have suffered enough at the hands of their abusers, and the red tape of the forfeiture system should not be a barrier to their adoption. The ASPCA is grateful to Representatives Chu and Katko for their continued leadership in championing the HEART Act to streamline the process to give these victims of cruelty the chance they deserve to find safe and loving homes.”

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 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.