A bill that would make sexually assaulting an animal a felony is moving through the state Legislature.
An amended version of Senate Bill 343 has made it through the Judiciary Committee and all three floor readings. It also passed its first reading in the House, and has been referred to the Agriculture and Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs committees.
The legislation was introduced by Sen. Mike Gabbard, with three fellow Oahu Democrats as co-introducers. Sen. Joy San Buenaventura, a Puna Democrat, is one of three who signed on to the bill as a supporter.
The measure would make anyone who subjects an animal to sexual contact; possesses, purchases or sells an animal with intent to subject the animal to sexual contact; or organizes, conducts or participates in an act where an animal is sexually abused guilty of a Class C felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment upon conviction.
If the act occurs in the presence of a minor, or if the perpetrator subjects a minor to sexual contact with an animal, the offense becomes a Class B felony, with conviction carrying a maximum 10 year prison term.
The legislation also contains a paragraph criminalizing the promotion of pornographic images of humans sexually abusing animals.
The bill makes exceptions for veterinary medicine, animal husbandry, artificial insemination for reproduction, and customary care of an animal by its owner.
The measure generated 79 pages of written testimony — all in favor — prior to the Judiciary Committee hearing.
The Humane Society of the United States noted that 46 states prohibit the sexual abuse of animals. The only states without such a law are Hawaii, New Mexico, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Lindsay Vierheilig, Hawaii state director for HSUS, described the phenomenon as “not the isolated deviant behavior you might think it is, but a prevalent and violent offense.”
“It can precede child sexual abuse, sexual homicide, and other violent acts.” Vierheilig said.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.