M Jenny Edwards
SME, Animal Sexual Abuse and Exploitation
The United States (US) is governed by both state and federal laws. (The opposite of this system is a centralized governance, such as that found in France and Great Britain, where the federal government sets laws for the entire country.)
The US is comprised of fifty states, four territories, and one federal district. In addition, the US military and indigenous tribes maintain their own sovereignty.
There is no federal statute for bestiality; however, there are federal laws against obscenity, so investigations should always inlude a search for images created, possessed, or distributed by the offender.
The remaining jurisdictions vary in terms of what is prohibited and the penalties assessed for infractions. Please note that information provided here has been edited for readability. For specific language, visit that state's website or consult an attorney licensed to practice in that state.
NOTE: Since this map was published in mid-2016, laws have been passed by NH, OH, and VT. Bills are pending in TX, NV, and WV. NV. Bills introduced in KY failed.
Laws vary worldwide just as they do in the U.S. One primary difference lies in the animals abused. In the U.S. abused animals are most often dogs, horses, and wildstock - in that order. In other countries, livestock is most often abused, particularly cows, goats, and donkeys.
Laws Prohibiting Bestiality
Why Bestiality Laws are Important ...
Bestiality is a significant social justice issue, and the full extent of the problem is unknown.
• Virtually all statistics related to bestiality are artificially low and may create a false sense of security that “it never happens in my district.” There are no reliable statistics nationwide on animal sexual abuse, but we do know that arrests for bestiality have occurred in every single state in the U.S.
• Bestiality is not “just” an act of animal cruelty; it is an act of sexual assault and exploitation. Bestiality offenders behave much like pedophiles or rapists. They train their animals to accept or give penetration and other forms of sexual contact, photograph them in sexual situations, collect and share animal pornography, talk about their encounters with other animal sex abusers in private chat rooms, and frequently work in and around animal-related organizations such as veterinary clinics, animal shelters, and barns. Predators seek out their victims and trespass or break into properties in order to gain access to their sexual targets. These encounters frequently result in injury or death to the animal.
The problem is complex, and it is growing.
• Since 2005, the number of arrests for bestiality has risen dramatically. There were more than twice as many arrests in 2015 than in the entire period between 1970 -2000. The internet has made it extremely easy for animal sex abusers to connect with one another, in effect normalizing their behavior. As of this writing, one site that caters to animal sex abusers boasts more than a million members, with 10,000 of them active at any moment in time.
• There is growing evidence that bestiality may be a lifelong sexual orientation and not just something that happens rarely. Studies have indicated that zoosexuals typically have their first experience around 13; the average age of arrest is 43.
There are significant, measurable links between bestiality and other criminal behavior.
• Bestiality, particularly when experiences as a child, has been shown to be the single largest risk factor and strongest predictor of increased risk for committing child sexual abuse (Abel 2009).
• Thirty-five percent (35%) of arrests for bestiality also involve child sexual abuse or exploitation. In addition, nearly 40% of the time offenders have prior criminal records for bestiality, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, battery, adult rape, substance abuse, trespass, public indecency, even murder (Edwards and Seigfried-Spellar, Variance of Adjudicated Cases of Bestiality in the U.S., Manuscript in progress).
New bestiality laws in Nevada, Ohio, Texas, and Vermont
September 1, 2017
The number of arrests for bestiality-related crimes in the U.S. has risen steadily since the 1970's and state legislators have begun to take notice. In the past year alone, new laws were passed in Nevada, Ohio, and Texas, and an existing animal cruelty law was strengthened in Vermont.
In 2018, the remaining three states without any specific prohibitions against bestiality - Kentucky, Hawaii, and West Virginia - as well as the District of Columbia will be lobbied to close the gap on prohibitions against animal sexual abuse in the U.S.