Legislation making bestiality a criminal offense of sexual assault died quickly in the 2019 Hawaii Legislature.

But a new bill this session calls for essentially the same thing but also a little more.

Senate Bill 2718, introduced by Sen. Mike Gabbard, would amend the Penal Code accordingly but also make clear that the sexual assault of an animal is a class C felony or a class B felony “if the offense subjects a minor to sexual contact with an animal or is committed in the presence of a minor.”

A cow on Maui. Proposed legislation would prohibit bestiality in Hawaii. Sophie Cocke/Civil Beat

The bill begins by stating the following:

“The legislature finds that the sexual assault of an animal, or bestiality, is prohibited in forty-six states. While Hawaii has strong animal cruelty laws, the sexual molestation of animals by humans is not adequately addressed. Animal cruelty laws require proof of specific actions, such as torture, actions that inflict bodily injury to the animal, or actions that cause the animal’s death.

“Some sexual assaults of animals cannot be prosecuted under animal cruelty laws because they do not cause bodily injury. Additionally, many acts of animal sexual abuse are discovered long after the incident occurs, limiting the available evidence.”

Also similar to last year’s failed measure, the current bill explains that sexual assault of animals can be “a strong predictor of a tendency” to commit other violent and sexual crimes — including child abuse and serial homicide.

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, besides Hawaii the states of New Mexico, Wyoming and West Virginia do not have laws addressing sexual assault of animals.

SB 2718 has a hearing Thursday at the Capitol.

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