Activists on prowl for artists showing animal cruelty

Anyone who displays artwork that shows animal cruelty could wind up behind bars as the result of a proposed law that comes in the wake of a controversial exhibit that was shut down because of public outrage.

The so-called Humanitarian Art Ordinance would allow the district attorney to bring charges against the artist who created the images of animal cruelty and the person putting the work on display, according to Christine Garcia, author of the law and an Animal Control and Welfare commissioner.

“Glamorizing crimes of animal cruelty isn’t a good idea because it might encourage more people to pick up that idea,” Garcia said.

Garcia said she has proposed the law in response to a San Francisco Art Institute exhibitthat opened in March and consisted of videos that showed six animals — a sheep, a horse, an ox, a pig, a goat and a doe — being struck and killed by a hammer.

On March 29, the exhibit was closed, a decision that, the Art Institute said, was “in response to a series of violent threats by animal-rights extremists.”

The Animal Control and Welfare Commission will discuss the proposed law today at City Hall.

The proposal requires that if someone displays a photograph or video of an act of animal cruelty that violates federal, state or local laws, and if the person who took the photograph or video helped in any way with the abuse, both could be charged with a felony.

The proposed law is supported by San Rafael-based animal-rights group In Defense of Animals.

“Animals should not suffer or die to make art whether for a video, photograph, sculpture or any other type of art,” In Defense of Animals President Elliot Katz said in a statement.

The proposed law also would require approval by the Board of Supervisors.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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