Bills involving animals often show up at the Hawaii Legislature, and this year is no exception.

Among the myriad measures are ones allowing dogs in restaurants, prohibiting pet stores from selling rabbits unless they are obtained from “humane sources,” fining people $500 if their pet poops on private property and banning the importation of lions, tigers and bears for exhibition.

Another piece of legislation regarding animals stands out in particular: House Bill 24 would make bestiality a criminal offense of sexual assault. The legislation says Hawaii is one of five states that does not have such a law on the books.

“I believe those stats to be true, but this is from local research on the internet, so it could be anecdotal,” said Rep. Tom Brower, author of HB 24. “But the Humane Society of the United States says that it’s true.”

Representative Tom Brower walks down Ohe Street as a dogs popped out from tents to bark at him while was on his way to the Olomehani street intersection for press conference. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Rep. Tom Brower wants to protect animals from sexual assault. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

That it does. Hawaii along with Kentucky, West Virginia, Wyoming, New Mexico and the District of Columbia did not have laws as of May 2018. Another source adds Texas, Vermont and Nevada.

The Humane Society lists a number of cases of animal sexual abuse, including to a dog named Grace in West Virginia in 2017 (“Grace suffered such horrendous bodily injury that felony animal cruelty charges could be applied”), a flamingo named Pinky in Florida in 2016 (“SeaWorld … will urge authorities to pursue the case with vigor”), a puppy named Jake in Michigan in 2016 (“When they took the puppy inside to bathe him, he refused to lift his tail and began crying and yelping in pain”) and a horse in Wisconsin in 2015 (“Waupaca County Sheriff Brad Hardel said he thinks a sort of hobbling device was used to abuse the horse”).

Sick Puppies

I had initially thought about making the column a humor piece. (Talking with my editors, I said, “If it bleats, it leads.”) But after reviewing the Humane Society’s list of 157 reports for “sexual assault,” I was sick to my stomach.

Not all of the cases appear to involve people having sex with animals. But bestiality can also be defined as “savagely cruel or depraved behavior.”

Consider this case in California in 2015:

In January, a dead goat and bag of chickens were found in South Sacramento. Since then, there have been at least nine cases involving mutilated chickens, rabbits, goats, a lamb and a tortoise throughout the Sacramento area. Officials aren’t certain if the animals were beheaded before or after they were killed. The cuts appear to have been made with a saw and do not appear to be precise.

Most of the sexual abuse cases involved dogs, but there are also reports of torture of cats, mutilation of skunks, calves killed by fireworks, the shooting death of a pregnant dolphin and hitting a nearly blind horse with a paintball gun more than 100 times. There are clearly a lot of sick puppies in this country, and I mean the human kind.

I did not see Hawaii in the Humane Society’s list of sexual abuse cases, other than a mention of recreational aquarium collection permits.

But I doubt we are immune. The Hawaiian Humane Society, for example, enforces existing animal cruelty laws. HB 24 would amend the state law, which includes cruelty to animals in the first and second degree.

(Of note: Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states. Which isn’t the same thing as saying it does not happen.)

There are other reasons to amend Hawaii’s animal cruelty laws besides prohibiting bestiality. Brower pointed to a study of over 44,000 adult male sex offenders in which researchers concluded that animal sex abuse “is the number one risk factor and the strongest predictor of increased risk for sexual abuse of a child.”

As the bill itself explains, “This is one reason why bestiality and other forms of animal cruelty are now tracked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as Group A offenses in the National Incident-Based Reporting System, in the same category as rape and murder.”

Animals, like people, can also be trafficked for sex and used in pornography. That would also be banned under HB 24.

Artificial insemination of animals for procreation could continue, as could animal husbandry.

Brower said measures similar to HB 24 have been introduced in past sessions. This one, which has a hearing Friday before the House Agriculture Committee, has the backing of 15 of his colleagues and support from some of the people in his Waikiki district

“I do have some constituents involved in taking care of animals, standing up for what I will call animal rights,” he said. “I chose to introduce it because it should be a no-brainer. We simply should have a law in the event that people do take advantage of animals or traffic videos of this type of behavior.”

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