TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—After three years of dithering, the Florida House unanimously passed SB344 Wednesday, a bill that outlaws sexual conduct with animals and makes violators subject to a first-degree misdemeanor charge. The Senate passed the bill unanimously in March.
The proposed law defines “sexual content” as:
(a) Any touching or fondling by a person, either directly or through clothing, of the sex organs or anus of an animal or any transfer or transmission of semen by the person upon any part of the animal for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal of the person.
(b) Any contact, however slight, between the mouth, sex organ, or anus of a person and the sex organ or anus of an animal, or any penetration, however slight, of any part of the body of the person into the sex organ or anus of an animal, or any penetration of the sex organ or anus of the person into the mouth of the animal, for the purpose of sexual gratification or sexual arousal of the person.
The push to make bestiality illegal in the state began in 2008 with the introduction of a bill by Sen. Nan Rich (D-Sunrise) that was prompted by the death in 2007 of a pregnant pet goat named Meg, who was asphyxiated while being raped.
DNA tests on a suspect in Meg’s death were inconclusive, so charges were not brought, but the individual was eventually charged with animal-theft in connection with the abduction of another goat and sentenced to nearly a year in jail for that crime. But Rich was shocked to learn at the time that even if a connection to Meg had been made, the state had no law against bestiality, and the perpetrator could only have been charged with misdemeanor trespassing and animal cruelty, a third-degree felony, in the death of Meg.
“It's true. It's sick. There needs to be a law,'' said Rich in 2008. “There are 30 states that make this a crime. Florida isn't one of them.''
Even the governor at the time, Charlie Crist, was anxious to remedy the situation, which he called “unbelievable.” Despite that political momentum, however, the House chamber delayed action and nothing got done until yesterday, more than three years after legislation was first proposed.
Rich's activism on the issue is not only because of the abuse committed against the animals. She has stated that the prohibition against bestiality is important because, according to studies, people who abuse animals may also abuse children. Though the instances of individuals committing both crimes is probably rare, it has happened, including in Florida in 2009 by an employee of the Flagler Humane Society who worked as a veterinary technician. She eventually was sentenced to five and a half years in prison, but only for the oral sex she had with a 15-year-old girl. The sexual intercourse she had with her German shepherd went unpunished.
The beastiality bill now goes to Governor Rick Scott for his signature. Once enacted, it should be dubbed Meg's Law.