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Table of State Animal Sexual Assault Laws



Rebecca F. Wisch


Animal Legal & Historical Center
Publish Date:
2013
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law

Printable Version

This table details state laws prohibiting sexual conduct between humans and animals. The vast majority of states (about 33) have some provision that criminalizes engaging in sexual conduct with animals.

A slight majority of states make this crime a felony (sixteen states misdemeanor, seventeen felony). However, one striking fact is the range of possible sentences under the laws. In Rhode Island, conviction results in imprisonment for not less than seven years up to twenty years. Idaho gives a sentence of not less than five years in state prison. Georgia also has a mandatory minimum of one year in jail up with a maximum of up to five. Massachusetts leaves a window of imprisonment that must not  exceed twenty years.

In contrast, about half of states label the crime a misdemeanor. However, in some of those states, such as Kansas and Maine, the severity level jumps to a felony if the actor causes or coerces juveniles to engage in the activity or if the person has previous convictions of bestiality.

Notably, the legality of bestiality is not controlled from the federal level. The only relevant federal law is the sodomy law under the military code. This law provides that “[a]ny person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with . . . an animal is guilty of sodomy.” 10 U.S.C.A. § 925. The penalty is derived through court martial. As one might expect, the statute applies only to military personnel.

It is not unusual for this type of societal issue to be controlled at the state level. Due to the interaction of federal power and state rights, most laws that deal with the health, safety, and welfare of citizens occur at the state or even local levels. This is especially true of criminal laws. Bestiality falls under the interest of the state in protecting citizens' health and, in many states, morality.

While many of these laws date to the last century or earlier, there have been recent additions of bestiality laws, particularly as part of amended cruelty code. While approximately seventeen states do not have a bestiality laws on their books, there may be provisions in the child protection laws addressing the act. These laws may prohibit showing children depictions of such acts or coercing juveniles to perform such acts. The table below does not include these laws.

The evolving view of this criminal activity can also  be seen by the criminal chapters under which these laws are placed. Historically, engaging in sexual activity with an animal was considered a crime against public morals or a "crime against nature" as in states like Idaho, Massachusetts, or Michigan. The act of bestiality was often placed in statute that covered other sexual acts that were historically considered "unnatural" and "perverted" (Maryland), or "abominable" and "detestable" (Rhode Island). One state (South Carolina) still refers to the activity as "buggery." The majority of states label their laws dealing with this conduct "bestiality."

In recent years, states have moved from categorizing these acts as crimes against morality to viewing them as a form of animal cruelty. In fact, several states specifically include such acts under their animal cruelty codes.

Additionally, many recent enactments contain another provision that the older laws do not: a prohibition on the photographing or filming of sexual acts with animals. Alaska, for example, amended its laws in 2010 to include sexual conduct with an animal under its general cruelty provisions. The subsection criminalizes both knowingly engaging in sexual conduct with an animal as well as filming or photographing another person doing so. With the availability of online media outlets to distribute this material, these newer laws seeks to protect the public from obtaining access to these images.

While categorizing this conduct as cruelty can be seen as a step toward greater animal welfare, California and Oregon have gone beyond this by calling the act "sexual assault of an animal." This change may reflect these states' assessment that animals are incapable of consenting to such acts. In some states, this categorization may also bring offenders under sexual assault registry laws.

This issue of registering as a sex offender and "victimhood" came before the Michigan Court of Appeals. In 2008, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that an animal cannot be a "victim" for the purposes of sex offender registry. People v. Haynes, 281 Mich.App. 27, 760 N.W.2d 283 (Mich.App.,2008). In this case, the defendant pleaded no contest to committing an “abominable and detestable crime against nature” with a sheep under MCL 750.158. In addition to sentencing consistent with being habitual offender, the trial court found that defendant's actions evidenced sexual perversion, so the court ordered defendant to register under the Sex Offenders Registration Act (“SORA”). Defendant only appealed the propriety of the trial court's order requiring him to register as a sex offender. The Court of Appeals reversed the order, holding that while sheep was the “victim” of the crime, registration was only required if the victim was a human being less than 18 years old. The court found that MCL 750.158 encompasses two categories of crimes: “abominable and detestable crime[s] against nature” with a human being, and “abominable and detestable crime[s] against nature” with an animal. SORA defines “listed offense” as including a violation of section 158 if a victim is an individual less than 18 years of age. Relying on the plain and ordinary meaning of "victim," the court concluded that an animal was not intended to be considered a victim  under the statute.

Because these laws focus on what can be considered an immoral or taboo act, many state laws mandate psychological counseling those convicted under such laws (Arizona and Washington among others). This is often required at the perpetrator's expense. More recent laws also mandate forfeiture of animals owned by the defendant and restrictions on future ownership.

There have been very few legal challenges to the constitutionality or propriety of such laws. Scholars suggest that these laws may not be directed at the lack of consent on the part of the animal, but rather society’s attitude toward sex itself.  Pets or Meat? Mary Ann Case, 80 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 1129 (2005). Recent laws have modified that view by placing the laws under criminal animal cruelty codes. While the author in Pets or Meat focuses on the broader question of gender roles in society, she does raise the difficult issue of how to differentiate the act of bestiality from other “tricks” pets are forced to perform, sometimes through coercion. 80 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 1129, 1149. In fact, famed animal rights philosopher Peter Singer wrote a controversial essay entitled, “Heavy Petting,” in which he suggests that “mutually satisfying activities” could occur without involving cruelty to the animal.  (See http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/2001----.htm). Singer insinuates that our discomfort with "zoophilia" stems more from our view as separate and morally superior from the rest of the animal world rather than the direct harm to the animal itself.

Regardless of the philosophical platform from which one views the activity, bestiality is criminally sanctioned in a majority of states. Even if a state does not specifically proscribe the activity, it may be covered under other aspects of a state’s sex crimes code or even a broader animal cruelty law.

 

State Citation and Name of Law What is prohibited Penalty Psychological counseling or other provisions
Alabama
Alaska

Cruelty to animals

A.S. 11.61.140

A person commits cruelty to animals if the person knowingly

  • engages in sexual conduct with an animal; or
  • photographs or films, for purposes of sexual gratification, a person engaged in sexual conduct with an animal; or
  • causes, induces, aids, or encourages another person to engage in sexual conduct with an animal; or
  • intentionally permits sexual conduct with an animal to be conducted on any premises under the person's control.
Class A misdemeanor

The court may also

  1. require forfeiture of any animal affected to the state or to a custodian that supplies shelter, care, or medical treatment for the animal;
  2. require the defendant to reimburse the state or a custodian for all reasonable costs incurred in providing necessary shelter, care, veterinary attention, or medical treatment for any animal affected;
  3. prohibit or limit the defendant's ownership, possession, or custody of animals for up to 10 years.
Arizona

Bestiality

A.R.S. § 13-1411

Engaging in oral sexual contact, sexual contact or sexual intercourse with an animal or causing another person to engage in such conduct.

Class 6 felony

Except that bestiality is class 3 felony if person causes another to engage in bestiality if the other person is a minor under fifteen years of age.

Undergo a psychological assessment and participate in appropriate counseling at the convicted person's own expense.

Reimburse an animal shelter for any reasonable costs incurred for the care and maintenance of any animal that was taken to the animal shelter as a result of prohibited conduct.

Arkansas

Bestiality

A.C.A. § 5-14-122

A person commits bestiality if he or she performs or submits to any act of sexual gratification with an animal involving his or her or the animal's sex organs and the mouth, anus, penis, or vagina of the other. Class A misdemeanor
California

Sexually assaulting animal; misdemeanor

Cal. Penal Code § 286.5

Any person who sexually assaults any animal protected by Section 597f for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the person. Misdemeanor
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware

Bestiality

11 Del.C. § 777

A person intentionally engages in any sexual act involving sexual contact, penetration or intercourse with the genitalia of an animal or intentionally causes another person to engage in any such sexual act with an animal for purposes of sexual gratification. Class D felony
D.C.
Florida

Sexual activities involving animals

West's F. S. A. 828.126

A person may not:

(a) Knowingly engage in any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal;

(b) Knowingly cause, aid, or abet another person to engage in any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal;

(c) Knowingly permit any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal to be conducted on any premises under his or her charge or control; or

(d) Knowingly organize, promote, conduct, advertise, aid, abet, participate in as an observer, or perform any service in the furtherance of an act involving any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal for a commercial or recreational purpose.

Misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083
Georgia

Bestiality

Ga. Code Ann., § 16-6-6

A person commits the offense of bestiality when he performs or submits to any sexual act with an animal involving the sex organs of the one and the mouth, anus, penis, or vagina of the other. Felony: imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years
Hawaii
Idaho

Crime Against Nature--Punishment

I.C. § 18-6605

Every person who is guilty of the infamous crime against nature, committed with mankind or with any animal.

Felony (statute does not list the level but it is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not less than five years).

Illinois

Sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal

720 I.L.C.S. 5/12-35

(a) A person may not knowingly engage in any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal.

(b) A person may not knowingly cause, aid, or abet another person to engage in any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal.

(c) A person may not knowingly permit any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal to be conducted on any premises under his or her charge or control.

(d) A person may not knowingly engage in, promote, aid, or abet any activity involving any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal for a commercial or recreational purpose.

Class 4 felony

A person who violates this Section in the presence of a person under 18 years of age or causes the animal serious physical injury or death is guilty of a Class 3 felony.

  1. Not harbor animals or reside in any household where animals are present for a reasonable period of time or permanently, if necessary.
  2. Relinquish and permanently forfeit all animals residing in the household to a recognized or duly organized animal shelter or humane society.
  3. Undergo a psychological evaluation and counseling at defendant's expense.
  4. Reimburse the animal shelter or humane society for any reasonable costs incurred for the care and maintenance of the animal involved in the sexual conduct or sexual contact in addition to any animals relinquished to the animal shelter or humane society.
Indiana

Bestiality

I.C. 35-46-3-14

A person who knowingly or intentionally performs an act involving:

(1) a sex organ of a person and the mouth or anus of an animal;

(2) a sex organ of an animal and the mouth or anus of a person;

(3) any penetration of the human female sex organ by an animal's sex organ; or

(4) any penetration of an animal's sex organ by the human male sex organ;

commits bestiality.

Class D felony
Iowa

Bestiality

IA ST § 717C.1

A person who performs a sex act ("sex act" means any sexual contact between a person and an animal by penetration of the penis into the vagina or anus, contact between the mouth and genitalia, or by contact between the genitalia of one and the genitalia or anus of the other) with an animal. Aggravated misdemeanor The court shall require the person to submit to a psychological evaluation and treatment at the person's expense.
Kansas

Criminal sodomy; aggravated criminal sodomy

K.S.A. 21-5504

Criminal sodomy involves:

  • sodomy between a person and an animal
  • causing a child under 14 years of age to engage in sodomy with any person or an animal

Subsection (a)(2) (between person and animal) is a class B nonperson misdemeanor.

Subsection (a)(4) (causing child between 14 and 16 to engage with animal) is a severity level 3, person felony.

Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine

Cruelty to animals

17 M.R.S.A. § 1031

 

A person is guilty of cruelty to animals if that person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly commits bestiality on an animal. For purposes of this paragraph, “commits bestiality” means that a person:

(1) Engages in a sexual act with an animal for the purpose of that person's sexual gratification;

(2) Coerces anyone to engage in a sexual act with an animal;

(3) Engages in a sexual act with an animal in the presence of a minor;

(4) Uses any part of the person's body or an object to sexually stimulate an animal;

(5) Videotapes a person engaging in a sexual act with an animal; or

(6) For the purpose of that person's sexual gratification, kills or physically abuses an animal.

Class D crime (misdemeanor)

If, at the time of the offense, the defendant has 2 or more prior convictions for violations of this section, section 1032 or essentially similar crimes in other jurisdictions, violation of this paragraph is a Class C crime.

Fine:

In addition to any other penalty, the court shall impose a fine of not less than $500 for each violation of this section. The court may order the defendant to pay the costs of the care, housing and veterinary medical treatment for the animal including the costs of relocating the animal.

Ownership restrictions:

The court may prohibit the defendant from owning, possessing or having on the defendant's premises an animal or animals as determined by the court for a period of time, up to and including permanent relinquishment.

A person placed on probation for a violation of this section with a condition that prohibits owning, possessing or having an animal or animals on the probationer's premises is subject to revocation of probation and removal of the animal or animals at the probationer's expense if this condition is violated.

Psychological counseling:

The court as part of the sentence may order, as a condition of probation, that the defendant be evaluated to determine the need for psychiatric or psychological counseling and, if it is determined appropriate by the court, to receive psychiatric or psychological counseling at the defendant's expense.

Maryland

Unnatural or perverted sexual practice

MD Code, Criminal Law, § 3-322

A person may not:

(1) take the sexual organ of another or of an animal in the person's mouth;

(2) place the person's sexual organ in the mouth of another or of an animal; or

(3) commit another unnatural or perverted sexual practice with another or with an animal.

Misdemeanor

On conviction subject to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both.

Massachusetts

Crime against nature

M.G.L.A. 272 § 34

Whoever commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, either with mankind or with a beast.

Felony (not listed but punishment is imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 20 years)

Michigan

Crime against nature or sodomy; penalty

M.C.L.A. 750.158

Any person who commits "the abominable and detestable crime against nature either with mankind or with any animal . . . "

Felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 15 years.

Or,if such person was at the time of the said offense a sexually delinquent person, may be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for an indeterminate term, the minimum of which shall be 1 day and the maximum of which shall be life.

Minnesota

Bestiality

M.S.A. § 609.294

Whoever carnally knows a dead body or an animal or bird is guilty of bestiality.

Misdemeanor

If knowingly done in the presence of another the person may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000 or both.

Mississippi

Sodomy

Miss. Code Ann. § 97-29-59

 

Every person who commits a "detestable and abominable crime against nature committed with mankind or with a beast."

Felony (not listed but punishment is imprisonment in the penitentiary for a term of not more than 10 years)

Missouri

Unlawful sex with an animal, crime, penalty

V.A.M.S. 566.111

A person commits the crime of unlawful sex with an animal if that person engages in sexual conduct with an animal or engages in sexual conduct with an animal for commercial or recreational purposes. Class A misdemeanor unless the defendant has previously been convicted under this section, in which case the crime is a class D felony.

In addition to penalty imposed, court may:

  • Prohibit the defendant from harboring animals or residing in any household where animals are present during the period of probation or if probation is not granted for a period of time not to exceed 2 years after the defendant's sentence is completed;
  • Order all animals in the defendant's possession subject to a civil forfeiture action; or
  • Order psychological evaluation and counseling of the defendant at the defendant's expense.
Montana

Deviate sexual conduct

MCA 45-5-505

A person who knowingly engages in deviate sexual relations or who causes another to engage in deviate sexual relations commits the offense of deviate sexual conduct.

CRIMINAL LAW COMMISSION COMMENTS

Source: New.

The section includes both homosexuality and bestiality. There has been a reduction in the penalty because it was felt that the severe penalty was more a product of revulsion than the social harm in fact committed. The Model Penal Code recommends that bestiality be made a misdemeanor. The Illinois Code contains no provision on the subject. Subsection (3) increases the penalty if the human-victim participant in the bestiality or homosexuality acts without consent. To appreciate the meaning and scope of “without consent” see sections 94-2-101(68) and 94-5-506(3) [now MCA, 45-5-501 and 45-5-511(3)].

Felony (not listed but a person convicted of the offense of deviate sexual conduct shall be imprisoned in the state prison for any term not to exceed 10 years or be fined an amount not to exceed $50,000, or both)
Nebraska

Indecency with an animal; penalty

Neb. Rev. St. § 28-1010

A person commits indecency with an animal when such person subjects an animal to sexual penetration as defined in section 28-318. Class III misdemeanor The sentencing court may order the defendant to reimburse a public or private agency for expenses incurred in conjunction with the care, impoundment, or disposal of an animal involved in the violation of such section.
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York

Sexual misconduct

McKinney's Penal Law § 130.20

A person is guilty of sexual misconduct when he or she engages in sexual conduct with an animal or a dead human body. Class A misdemeanor
North Carolina

Crime against nature

N.C.G.S.A. § 14-177

If any person commits a crime against nature, with mankind or beast. Punished as a Class I felon
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon

Sexual assault of animal

O. R. S. § 167.333

A person commits the crime of sexual assault of an animal if the person:

  • Touches or contacts, or causes an object or another person to touch or contact, the mouth, anus or sex organs of an animal or animal carcass for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of a person; or
  • Causes an animal or animal carcass to touch or contact the mouth, anus or sex organs of a person for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of a person.
Class A misdemeanor Upon the conviction of a defendant for violation of ORS 167.333, the court may order a psychiatric or psychological evaluation of the defendant for inclusion in the presentence report.
Pennsylvania

Sexual intercourse with animal

18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3129

A person who engages in any form of sexual intercourse with an animal Misdemeanor of the second degree
Rhode Island

Abominable and detestable crime against nature

Gen.Laws 1956, § 11-10-1

Every person who commits "the abominable and detestable crime against nature, with any beast . . ." Felony with imprisonment not exceeding 20 years nor less than 7 years
South Carolina

Buggery

Code 1976 § 16-15-120

Whoever commits "the abominable crime of buggery, whether with mankind or with beast . . ." Felony with imprisonment in the Penitentiary for five years or shall pay a fine of not less than $500, or both, at the discretion of the court.
South Dakota

Bestiality--Acts constituting--Commission a felony

SDCL § 22-22-42

No person, for the purpose of that person's sexual gratification, may:

(1) Engage in a sexual act with an animal; or

(2) Coerce any other person to engage in a sexual act with an animal; or

(3) Use any part of the person's body or an object to sexually stimulate an animal; or

(4) Videotape a person engaging in a sexual act with an animal; or

(5) Kill or physically abuse an animal.

Class 6 felony

However, if the person has been previously convicted of a sex crime any subsequent violation of this section is a Class 5 felony.

Tennessee

Sexual activity with animals

T. C. A. § 39-14-214

A person commits an offense who knowingly:

(1) Engages in any sexual activity with an animal;

(2) Causes, aids, or abets another person to engage in any sexual activity with an animal;

(3) Permits any sexual activity with an animal to be conducted on any premises under his or her charge or control;

(4) Engages in, organizes, promotes, conducts, advertises, aids, abets, participates in as an observer, or performs any service in the furtherance of an act involving any sexual activity with an animal for a commercial or recreational purpose; or

(5) Photographs or films, for purposes of sexual gratification, a person engaged in a sexual activity with an animal.

Class E felony

In addition to the penalty imposed the court may order that the convicted person do any of the following:

  • Not harbor or own animals or reside in any household where animals are present;
  • Participate in appropriate counseling at the defendant's expense; or
  • Reimburse the animal shelter or humane society for any reasonable costs incurred for the care and maintenance of any animals taken to the animal shelter or humane society as a result of conduct proscribed in subsection (a) of this section.
Texas
Utah

Bestiality--Definitions--Penalty

U.C.A. 1953 § 76-9-301.8

A person commits the crime of bestiality if the actor engages in any sexual activity with an animal with the intent of sexual gratification of the actor. Class B misdemeanor
Vermont
Virginia

Crimes against nature; penalty

Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-361

Any person who carnally knows in any manner any brute animal. Class 6 felony
Washington

Animal cruelty in the first degree

West's RCWA 16.52.205

A person is guilty of animal cruelty in the first degree when he or she:

(a) Knowingly engages in any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal;

(b) Knowingly causes, aids, or abets another person to engage in any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal;

(c) Knowingly permits any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal to be conducted on any premises under his or her charge or control;

(d) Knowingly engages in, organizes, promotes, conducts, advertises, aids, abets, participates in as an observer, or performs any service in the furtherance of an act involving any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal for a commercial or recreational purpose; or

(e) Knowingly photographs or films, for purposes of sexual gratification, a person engaged in a sexual act or sexual contact with an animal.

 

Class C felony

In addition to the penalty imposed, the court may order that the convicted person do any of the following:

  • Not harbor or own animals or reside in any household where animals are present;
  • Participate in appropriate counseling at the defendant's expense;
  • Reimburse the animal shelter or humane society for any reasonable costs incurred for the care and maintenance of any animals taken to the animal shelter or humane society as a result of conduct proscribed in subsection (3) of this section.
West Virginia
Wisconsin

Sexual gratification

W.S.A. 944.17

Commits an act of sexual gratification involving his or her sex organ and the sex organ, mouth or anus of an animal.

Commits an act of sexual gratification involving his or her sex organ, mouth or anus and the sex organ of an animal.

Class A misdemeanor
Wyoming
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