Bestiality law introduced in Florida Legislature listen01/04/08 SeÃ¡n Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:
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 familyâ€™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.
â€œThe 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.â€
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.
â€œWe 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. Weâ€™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.â€
The bill â€œprohibits knowing sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animalâ€ and prohibits some related activities. It is important to have a law outlawing bestiality, according to Rich.
â€œFor me personally, Iâ€™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 â€“ those who abuse animals abuse people. So I think itâ€™s really important that we have something on the books that would prohibit people from being able to do this without penalty.â€
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.
â€œThe state attorney in the case in Walton County could only prosecute as misdemeanor trespassing â€¦ and this man couldnâ€™t be arrested for bestiality because it isnâ€™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.â€
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 â€œgood news.â€