Sunday, May 28, 2023

Proposed Bill Would Make Bestiality a Crime

New Mexico one of two states without the law


It may come as a surprise, but bestiality – engaging in sexual activity with an animal – is not specifically identified as a crime in New Mexico. 

State Sen. Brenda McKenna, D-Corrales, wants to change that. Along with Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, she is sponsoring legislation that makes bestiality and aggravated bestiality second-, third-, or fourth-degree felony crimes, depending on the circumstances. Violators would be punished based on sentencing guidelines for felonies. They would have to register as a sex offender, would be prohibited from having contact with animals, and could be required to undergo a psychological assessment, get counseling and pay restitution.

In a phone interview last week, McKenna said she, too, was surprised to learn there is no such law on the books.

“New Mexico and West Virginia still do not have it in statute,” she said. 

McKenna related a story she had heard about someone advertising “mare bonding” on social media.

“Law enforcement said there was nothing they could do because solicitation of sexual contact (with an animal) would not violate any law,” McKenna said.

According to the bill’s Fiscal Impact Report, current laws prohibiting animal cruelty are misdemeanors, or fourth-degree felonies. But they define cruelty as intentionally or maliciously torturing, mutilating, injuring, poisoning, or killing an animal and say nothing about sex with an animal.

Bestiality is, however, a prohibited act in statutes addressing sexual exploitation of children.

McKenna said she’s seen a national study that suggests about one-third of cases in which an individual was charged with bestiality involve a child.

“I hope it becomes law this year so the voiceless in our state are protected,” McKenna said.

The New Mexico Livestock Board reviewed the proposed legislation and commented that “the problem of animal sex abuse is complex and is growing, and there are significant, measurable links between animal sex abuse and other criminal behavior.”

The bill, Senate Bill 215, received a “do pass” recommendation from the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee. It’s next slated for the Judiciary Committee and was also referred to the Finance Committee.

The Fiscal Impact Report estimates the cost of implementing the law to be about $70,000 per offender, roughly the cost to incarcerate someone for a year.

Behavior that would constitute a fourth-degree felony includes committing the act itself, observing it, aiding and abetting it, organizing or promoting bestiality behavior, including the sale of an animal for such purpose, and distributing any visual or print medium depicting bestiality.

The crime would be charged as a third-degree felony if the animal is seriously injured or killed, or if it happens in the presence of a minor. It becomes aggravated third-degree bestiality if the act is filmed or photographed, or if another person is coerced or solicited to engage in bestiality.

The crime is charged in the second degree if a child is involved.

If passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, the law would go into effect June 16.

Sen. Moores, who is co-sponsoring the bill with McKenna, sponsored the legislation that outlawed coyote hunting contests a few years ago.


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