OLYMPIA – People accused of having sex with animals would face felony charges under a measure approved Saturday by the Senate.
The bill passed on a 36-0 vote, with 13 lawmakers excused. It was prompted by a widely publicized Washington state case in which a man died of injuries suffered while having sex with a horse. The measure now goes to the House.
“It’s really a bill that will protect animals, who are innocent, by the fact that they can’t consent,” said Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, the bill’s prime sponsor. “We have a good deal of our population wanting to protect innocent animals from any cruelty.”
The measure would make bestiality a Class C felony, which is punishable by a maximum five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Anyone videotaping such acts also could be convicted under animal cruelty laws, as could anyone permitting such acts on their property.
Offenders could also be restricted from owning animals and required to undergo counseling.
Washington is one of 14 states where bestiality is not explicitly prohibited, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“I know this has been the subject of a lot of press, and I know there are some who feel this is something unnecessary,” said Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, a co-sponsor on the bill. “The fact is, we had a gaping hole in our criminal statutes. It ought to be criminalized. I think this bill is a moderate step in that direction.”
The issue made headlines in July, when Kenneth Pinyan of Seattle died after suffering a perforated colon while having sex with a horse at a farm in rural King County.
Prosecutors were unable to charge anyone with animal cruelty, but James Michael Tait, 54, of Enumclaw, pleaded guilty to trespassing for unlawfully entering the barn during the incident.
Authorities said Tait videotaped the act. He received a one-year suspended sentence, a $300 fine and community service.
Authorities said the Enumclaw farm involved in the bestiality death was well-known on the Internet. Investigators found hundreds of hours of videotaped evidence, but there was no evidence of injury to the horses involved, so no animal cruelty charges were ever filed.