When neighboring Ohio enacted a law last month making bestiality a felony, it left Kentucky in the embarrassing position of being one of only nine states where having sex with animals is not a crime.
Now a Republican lawmaker from Richmond is trying to fix that — but with a catch.
House Bill 143 would ban the sexual assault of a pet dog or cat, but it wouldn’t address sex with other animals, The Courier-Journal reports.
Dee Robinson of Kentucky Citizens Against Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence, who drafted the bill, said the omission in part is designed to avoid antagonizing hunters and farmers.
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The former have opposed animal welfare bills for fear they could lead to a ban on hunting, while farmers have expressed concern they could run afoul of bestiality laws while artificially inseminating livestock, she said.
“We didn’t want to irritate the Kentucky Farm Bureau,” she said.
Bestiality has been called the last taboo, and Ohio is one of six states that have banned it in just this decade. Alabama, which three years ago made it a misdemeanor, exempted acceptable veterinarian and animal husbandry practices. Indiana made bestiality a felony in 2002, after a Hammond man had sex with a chicken, then killed it, and could be prosecuted only for animal cruelty.
Some violators have been prosecuted in Kentucky for that crime. In 2002 and again in 2011, a man named Nathan Jackson was convicted of that misdemeanor in McCracken County, for having sex with a horse at Paducah’s Carson Park fairgrounds. He served 25 days in jail and paid a $400 fine for the more recent transgression. But animal welfare advocates say animal cruelty convictions generally require proof of injury to the animal.
Sexual abuse of animals used to be covered under sodomy laws, but most of those statutes have been repealed on the grounds that the state has no business interfering in sex among consenting adults. The state Supreme Court struck down Kentucky’s sodomy law in 1992.
The Kentucky bill introduced by Rep. Wesley Morgan, who describes himself on Facebook as a “husband, father, Christian” and owner of a liquor store, would make sexual assault or sexual touching of a cat or dog a felony punishable by one to five years in prison, unless it was done in front of a child, which would raise the maximum penalty to 10 years.
Violators would have to surrender their pet and be barred from owning a dog or cat for five years for the first offense and for life for the second.
The prospects for Morgan’s bill are probably bleak in 2017.
Daisy Olivo, a spokesman for House Speaker Jeff Hoover, said he’s against bestiality but has staunchly maintained that the short, 30-day legislative session should be reserved for “serious, economy-related bills.”
A Louisville ordinance makes engaging in sexual acts with an animal a misdemeanor, but Ozzy Gibson, director of animal services, said he supports the bill because it would carry a greater penalty and apply statewide.
Robinson, who lives in Eddyville, said “the fact we even need this bill is abhorrent.” She also said she can’t understand how any lawmaker could oppose it.
“I challenge any one of them to stand up and explain what gives anyone the right to rape a dog,” she said.
She and other advocates argue that bestiality laws are about far more than protecting animals, citing studies showing that sexual abuse of pets is correlated with abuse of children, women and the elderly.
One study found that in 88 percent of the homes with physically abused children, the family pet also was abused or neglected. Another found that 43 percent of school shooters abused animals.
The FBI this month began tracking animal cruelty crimes, including bestiality, in its National Incident Based Reporting Systems, a database used by law enforcement.
Advocates say laws like the one proposed in Kentucky would allow law enforcement and prosecutors to identify potentially dangerous sexual predators who may also be abusing children.
Robinson said she decided to limit the bill to sexual abuse of pets, rather than all animals because the link is stronger between that and abuse of people. She also said she thought it would make it easier to pass the bill.
“We decided to take baby steps,” she said. “If someone wants to amend it to include all animals, that’s fine.”
Morgan also has introduced HB 135, which would make torture of a dog or cat a felony.
A lobbyist and a spokesman for the Kentucky Farm Bureau did not respond to questions about its position on the bestiality bill.
Joe R Bolton, president of the 82-year-old League of Kentucky Sportsmen, said he couldn’t say whether it would support or oppose the legislation without talking to his board, although he said, “I wouldn’t think anybody would be in favor of having sex with pets.”
Robinson said she eats meat, hunts, fishes and wears leather and that the bill presents no threat to hunters or farmers.
“Why would anyone in their right mind be against this bill?” she asked.