Bestiality law introduced in Florida Legislature
A gruesome event last January in the Panhandle may give momentum to a bill making its way though the Florida Legislature this spring. Near the town of Crestview, a family’s pregnant pet goat was sexually assaulted and murdered. Since then, a bill prohibiting bestiality has been introduced to the Florida Senate and House of Representatives.
Dee Thompson-Poirrier is director of Animal Services for Okaloosa County, at PAWS, the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society. Thompson-Poirrier said she supports the bill.
Rep. Frank Peterman Jr., a Democrat from St. Petersburg, and Sen. Nan Rich, a Democrat from Broward County, are sponsoring the bill to ban bestiality. Rich told WMNF she hopes the bill will pass in the upcoming legislative session.
“The bill is one that would prohibit a person from engaging with sexual conduct with an animal. It would prohibit, in essence, bestiality. We do not have a statute in the state of Florida that prohibits bestiality. And unfortunately, we have a number of cases where people have sexually abused or sexually assaulted animals.”
The bill would make bestiality a first-degree felony. Rich said 30 other states that have similar laws, the penalties range from misdemeanors to felonies.
“We really thought we should start with, you know, a first degree felony. Obviously when you work bills through the process, some people have different ideas and people sometimes compromise, obviously, when they really would like to get a bill through. We’ve worked with the Humane Society and the people out of the Panhandle; Panhandle Animal Welfare Society actually is the one who came and asked to have this bill promoted. And they really support a felony penalty.”
The bill “prohibits knowing sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal” and prohibits some related activities. It is important to have a law outlawing bestiality, according to Rich.
“For me personally, I’ve been involved with a lot of legislation dealing with child abuse and animal abuse and there is a tremendous correlation between the two. Research shows that there is an 88 percent crossover – those who abuse animals abuse people. So I think it’s really important that we have something on the books that would prohibit people from being able to do this without penalty.”
The goat that was killed in the panhandle was pregnant, carrying two kids, but Rich said that if it had not been injured, there would not have been a serious crime under existing Florida law.
“The state attorney in the case in Walton County could only prosecute as misdemeanor trespassing … and this man couldn’t be arrested for bestiality because it isn’t a crime in the state of Florida and I would suggest that bestiality should be a crime and that it is really pretty unconscionable and disgusting to think about people doing these kinds of things to animals.”
Peterman, who represents District 55 in St. Petersburg, sponsored the bestiality bill in the House.
Gov. Charlie Crist has said he supports the bill; Rich called that “good news.”
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