By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A bill criminalizing the act of bestiality was approved in its first Senate reading this week, making it more likely the bill will become a law by the summer.
House Bill 46 was passed by the “Committee of the Whole” during the Senate’s floor session on Tuesday afternoon. The “Committee of the Whole” refers to a chamber’s first review of a bill after it has been approved by a committee.
The bill, which won final approval from the House earlier this week, would make bestiality a misdemeanor in the state with a maximum sentence of one year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.
Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, a co-sponsor of the bill, told her colleagues the bill was inspired by an act of bestiality that occurred last summer in Sweetwater County.
“The action did occur in our state recently, drawing the issue to attention and needing to codify this law and make sure there are consequences to that in this state,” she said.
Wyoming is only one of four states that does not have a bestiality law on its books.
Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, questioned whether or not the bill would criminalize artificial insemination and other husbandry acts, but Nethercott noted there was an exception to those situations in the bill.
Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, wondered if it would be better to make bestiality a felony in the state, rather than a misdemeanor.
“These cases are really unpleasant to do, especially just for a misdemeanor,” he said.
Sen. R.J. Kost, R-Powell, agreed with Perkins, saying that in many bestiality cases, someone is being forced into the act. He suggested amending the bill on second reading and looking into the situations that precede the bestiality.
“I would say we definitely need to pass this bill,” Kost said.
This incident that spurred the bill occurred last summer when a man in Sweetwater County was found to have trespassed onto private property to engage in sexual activity with horses.
“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.