The House responded this year by passing legislation to curb the spread of these videos, authored by Reps. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and advocates expect a Senate version soon. Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) have expressed interest in confronting the issue.
Nancy Perry, vice president of government relations at the Humane Society, will testify at Tuesday's hearing. She said thousands of these videos exist that show the "slow and intentional torture of animals for sexual gratification."
The problem is exacerbated by the Internet, she said, which makes the content widely available. A video goes for about $80, payable through PayPal or Western Union, and depicts women and young girls torturing and killing animals such as dogs, goats, monkeys, rabbits and pigs, according to the Humane Society.
The other witness for the hearing is Kevin Volkan, a psychology professor at California State University. He will highlight the psychological dimension of animal torture.
"I will be speaking about the sexual nature of the 'crush' paraphernalia," he said. "In other words, showing that those who are involved with this behavior, including watching so-called crush videos, derive sexual gratification from it."
After the House bill passed with near-unanimous backing, Gallegly said stopping animal torture videos helps protect people, too.
"The deliberate torture of small animals is not just a concern because of the animal cruelty involved," he said, "but because studies have shown that there is a link between animal cruelty and violence against humans. We need a federal law as soon as possible to once again stop these disgusting videos."