A person has sex with an animal in Ohio. Not illegal.
But two state lawmakers are trying to change that with a bill that would outlaw any sex-related activities with an animal.
Ohio is one of eleven states without an anti-bestiality law, according to Sen. Jim Hughes and Sen. Jay Hottinger. Other states included in that list are Kentucky and West Virginia.
The bill would also prohibit a person from selling or purchasing an animal with the intent of engaging in sexual conduct. It also bans any promotion of the sexual conduct.
Ohio already has an existing law that prohibits animal cruelty, but the bill is needed to explicitly outlaw any sexual conduct between a human and an animal, said John Murphy, executive director for the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
“The existing animal cruelty statutes would not apply to all acts outlawed by this bill,” Murphy said. “This is especially true if there is no known harm to the animal.”
The bill has received support from law enforcement agencies, law associations and advocates fighting domestic violence, sexual violence and animal cruelty.
In past hearings, law enforcers have testified that bestiality has links to other sex crimes.
Jeremy Hoffman, a detective with Fairfax County Police, said almost every child pornographer he arrested had accumulated a collection of bestiality pornography.
“I realized that much like those in our society who choose to abuse children, those who sexually abuse animals lack any semblance of a moral compass; they lack any sense of sexual boundaries,” Hoffman said.
Dan Johnson, a sergeant with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, wrote that he had similar experiences as well.
Johnson said his taskforce has recognized “a correlation between bestiality and child pornography" in the last six years of investigations.
“Approximately 50 percent of individuals who possessed child pornography also possessed images and videos involving sex acts between animals and humans,” Johnson said.
Animal abuse frequently precedes other violent acts, said David Hejmanowski, a judge with the Delaware County Probate and Juvenile Court.
“Animal abuse may be among the earliest signs of a conduct disorder and of the need for mental health intervention,” Hejmanowski said.
Bestiality would be considered a misdemeanor if the bill becomes law. The bill also allows a court to order the offender to forfeit the animal and undergo psychological evaluation or counseling.
So far, no one has stood to testify against the bill during the hearings.
Sen. John Eklund, R-Chardon, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said the committee is close to moving the bill forward.
Hughes, R-Columbus, was not available for comment.
Joshua Lim is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaLim93.