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Rock Springs Rep Proud Of Bestiality Bill, Hopes He Never Has To Work On It Again

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

While a state representative from Rock Springs is proud his work spearheading a new law criminalizing bestiality in Wyoming, he said he has no desire to work on the topic further.

The bill proposed by Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs,, which took effect last summer, criminalized the act of bestiality and made it a misdemeanor in Wyoming, one of the few states in the nation prior to 2021 that did not have a law on its books about the act.

“I don’t think in Sweetwater County, or in Wyoming generally, bestiality is a widespread problem,” Stith told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “But it was an anomaly that this was one of the few states in the country with no law on the books for it. I thought it was important to express society’s disapproval in a legal way.”

The bill stemmed from an incident in Rock Springs in the summer of 2020, when a man was found to be sexually abusing horses.

The man’s identity was withheld until formal charges could be filed, but with no bestiality law on the books, there was not much the police could do in the situation.

Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jason Mower said at the time that in order for an animal cruelty charged to be pursued, there would have to be evidence that the man physically injured the animals.

“The deputy sheriff spoke to me at a football game and said, ‘Look, this is crazy. We can’t do anything with this guy, we need to change the law,'” Stith said. “As I researched, I thought, ‘Well, that’s just common sense.'”

Stith modeled the bill on the South Dakota law banning bestiality, which he said was “straightforward” and didn’t get overly detailed.

With Wyoming’s enacting of the bestiality ban, it became one of 47 states that has a law on the books about the act. It was not clear if Hawaii, New Mexico and West Virginia have yet passed similar laws.

Stith said bestiality is not fully understood as a pathology, but pointed out it could also be connected to other violent crimes or sexual predation of either children or adults.

Stith also noted that when he brought the bill to the floor to introduce it, the silence from his fellow representatives was deafening.

“Nobody’s going to speak against this,” he said.

He joked that by proposing both the bestiality law and a bill banning the distribution of explicit pictures in an attempt to shame someone — known as “revenge porn” — in the same legislative session, that’s all his friends from law school know him for now.

“I’m not planning on bringing any subsequent bills forward on the topic,” Stith said.

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Wyoming One Step Closer to Making Bestiality A Crime

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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.

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