MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - The Wisconsin Senate has passed a bill that would make sexual contact with an animal a felony.
Generic horse stock photo: MGN
Senate Bill 139 would make it a Class H felony to "have sexual contact with an animal, to promote or otherwise participate in sexual contact with animals, to create, possess, or distribute obscene material depicting a person engaged in sexual contact with an animal, or to advertise, harbor, transport, provide, or obtain an animal for the purpose of having sexual contact with the animal."
CLICK HERE to read the full bill.
Sex with an animal is a misdemeanor under current Wisconsin law.
The bill would also criminalize forcing children to engage with sexual contact with an animal.
The bill went before the full Senate floor Tuesday and passed. The bill will need to pass the State Assembly before it advances to the desk of Gov. Tony Evers.
State Sen. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere) introduced the bill and has been a vocal supporter of criminalizing bestiality in Wisconsin. He says SB 139 has bipartisan support.
"And I can tell you I go to every county fair in my district. I talked to farmers, I talked to people, particularly in the horse community where this is something that just, you know, scares them when they know that there's a perpetrator in the area," says Jacque.
Jacque authored the bill partly in response to the case of serial horse abuser Sterling Rachwal, a story Action 2 News has been covering for years. Rachwal has been charged multiple times over the past two decades for molesting horses, but spent little time in custody. Critics have protested what they say are light sentences for his crimes. CLICK HERE to learn more about the Rachwal case.
"You have individuals that it's really just been a slap on the wrist, Sterling Rachwal, in particular, has victimized our communities time and time again, but he's certainly not alone in that," says Jacque.
"But it's not just horse abuse either. But when you talk to law enforcement, and you have prosecutors, or you have investigators that do Internet Crimes Against Children that tell you about how this is something that is occurring more and more frequently, that you see, basically pornography with animals involved as a precursor to much more," says Jacque.
Jacque says the bill will close a loophole in the law.
"So before you had to be able to definitively prove how the abuse occurred. So somebody could claim that instead of using a sexual organ, there was an implement that was used, or basically, unless you had visual evidence into something where very clearly you could prove that the abuse occurs," says Jacque.
"But based on the way that was laid out, and statute, unless you could be very specific, many times would lead to charges being dropped all together, simply because it was going to be difficult to prove the element of exactly how something occurred."
Jacque has introduced similar legislation in the past. In 2018, the bill was before the State Senate on the last day of the session. However, Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald declined to take it up. Bill supporters said Fitzgerald did not want the subject of animal sex to get press coverage over other bills passed on the final day of the session.
"This is something that really I think is long overdue," says Jacque. "It deals with the fact that there is progression from animal sexual abuse to human victims, certainly something that we've seen even in the the sheriff candidate that was arrested from Outagamie County last year."
The bill could soon be in the hands of the State Assembly.
"So I believe the State Assembly is going to hold hearing on it October 17. So at that point, the Assembly committee could take a vote on it and could be available for the next day the Assembly is in session, which would be in in the first week of November, I believe," says Jacque.