By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A bill that would make bestiality a crime was sent to the floor of the Senate for debate on Friday by a legislative committee.
Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday morning in support of a bill submitted in response to a Sweetwater County incident and told members Wyoming is only one of only four states in the country that doesn’t have a bestiality law on its books.
“I don’t necessarily consider it a widespread or growing problem but in my county, we did have an incident last year where the matter was investigated, it was actually on video, there was no question about the facts,” Stith said. “Law enforcement investigated it. They were able to prosecute for trespass, but not anything more. The community felt trespass didn’t quite capture the justice in this matter.”
Stith is sponsoring House Bill 46, which has already been approved by the House, which would make bestiality a misdemeanor in the state and a maximum sentence of one year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.
This incident to which he was referring occurred last summer when a man in Sweetwater County was found to have trespassed onto private property to engage in sexual activity with horses.
The property owner told the deputy that they chained and locked the gate a certain way when leaving the corral at night. When they returned to the corral the next day, it was chained differently.
“While shocking, this is actually a very difficult case,” Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jason Mower said at the time of the crime. “Wyoming is only one of a handful of states without a bestiality statute on the books.”
Mower also explained that for an animal cruelty charge to hold up in court, it would have to be proven that the man actually injured the horses.
Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, also testified in support of the bill, but also the committee to consider making bestiality a felony, not just a misdemeanor.
“The good bringer of the bill has taken the first step, but when you look at other states that have similar laws in place … perhaps in this case it would be appropriate with a second or subsequent conviction to make it a felony-level offense,” Zwonitzer said.
Tara Muir, public policy director for the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, also testified in support of the bill, whether the crime is considered a misdemeanor or felony.
However, she said the bill didn’t include any provisions for victims who might be forced into bestiality, so she asked for an amendment consideration for their defense.
“I think [being forced into bestiality] happens more than we know,” Muir said.
Committee members agreed they would consider an amendment during a second reading of the bill.
Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police spokesman Bryon Oedekoven also testified in support of the bill.
“This bill came out of an incident in Sweetwater County but unfortunately, I can tell you this happens all over the state,” Oedekoven said.
The committee unanimously agreed to send the bill to the Senate for consideration on “general file,” when the amendments would be offered. “General file” refers to the consideration by the full Senate of a bill approved by a committee.