Zoophilia and the law

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Zoophilia and the law looks at the laws governing humans performing sex acts with non-human animals. Laws against humans performing sex acts on animals, where they exist, are concerned with the actual act, which it commonly refers to as bestiality, rather than the sexual attraction to animals. For this reason, prohibitions of zoophilic pornography are more varied; they may be unlawful if an actual sex act with an animal is involved, but the status is not clear-cut if there is a mere representation, such as a painting or cartoon. In that case, normal obscenity laws will normally apply. All zoophilic imagery is widely regarded as pornography.

Public opinion[edit]

According to a 2014 poll carried out by Gallup, 76% of Denmark supports banning bestiality.[1]

An April 2017 Yougov poll found 75% of the United Kingdom think bestiality should be illegal, 11% didn't think bestiality should be illegal, and 14% don't know.[2]

Political parties[edit]

On 21 April 2015, the Liberal Alliance was the only party in the Folketing to oppose and vote against banning bestiality, while the Red-Green Alliance abstained. Liberal Alliance MP Joachim Olsen said about the bill: "Best case, this is a superficial law. Worst case, it is political populism and moralism".[3][4]


Denmark's Animal Ethics Council opposed banning bestiality in Denmark in 2006 and 2015, saying existing laws which allow bestiality except in cases where the animal can be proved to have suffered were enough.[5][6]


Laws on bestiality tend to be shaped by animal welfare concerns, moral views, and cultural beliefs. In many cultures, humans are seen as fundamentally different from other animals and having sex with animals is seen as defilement.[7]

One of the primary critiques of bestiality is that it is harmful to animals and necessarily abusive, because animals are unable to give or withhold consent.[8]


International differences[edit]

Some jurisdictions list laws very clearly, such as England and Wales, which specifically prohibits penetration of a human being by the penis of an animal, and penetration of an animal by a human's penis.[9]

By contrast, many countries and US states are less precise about the scope of law in that they outlaw sex with animals, without defining what constitutes "sex".[citation needed]

Even if bestiality is not explicitly prohibited, there are often many other laws which can be used to effectively prosecute cases. For example, most countries have animal cruelty laws, and a prosecutor will argue that all zoophilia activity is animal abuse.[10] In some U.S. states, a person who engages in bestiality can be charged with animal cruelty.[11]

Prohibitions without specific bestiality statutes[edit]

Some countries have a range of laws on their books. Sometimes sodomy laws or "crime against nature" laws are used to prosecute people who have sex with animals.

In the case of Kenneth Pinyan, who died from injuries sustained from receiving anal sex from a horse, local law enforcement found that there were no laws that allowed them to prosecute his friend, who had filmed the event and also allowed himself to be sodomized by the horse. The friend was prosecuted for trespassing. That case prompted the Washington State legislature to draw up legislation outlawing sex with animals.[12]

In a 2005 Florida case, a man who had sex with his dog was charged with disorderly conduct, since the state had no anti-bestiality laws on the books at the time.[13] On October 1, 2011, the state of Florida State Law 828.126, F.S went into effect, banning sex with animals.[14]

Laws against sex with animals[edit]

Aggrawal has discussed extensively on laws against bestiality.[15] It is permitted in a few countries although ordinary animal treatment laws apply.

There are also commonly laws against forcing another person to engage in sexual activity with other animals, especially minors (usually considered equivalent to rape), and laws related to exposing others (either non-consensually or minors) to the sight of a sexual act. In some jurisdictions, laws against zoophilia conduct also include provisions for seizure of animals where convicted.


Sexual handling of an animal for the purposes of veterinary practice, or animal husbandry (breeding), is normally exempted where such laws exist. In public discussion for the recently passed Oregon law, however, one animal shelter's spokesperson wanted the husbandry exemption kept out, as he was concerned that someone might use these "accepted farming practices" as a legal loophole to then have (legal) sexual contact with an animal only for personal enjoyment. One of the legislators responded by asking if they were trying to outlaw an act (of sexual contact), or a state of mind. The veterinary and husbandry exemption was left out of Oregon's law in the final, enacted version. Because some alterations of animal genitalia (such as artificial insemination) are permitted but others (sex with animals) are not, concerns have been raised that this may violate due process and equality before the law.[16][17]

Zoophilic pornography[edit]

The legality of pornography has three components: legality of production, legality of sale and transportation, and legality of ownership. In general, animal pornography is legal to produce where both zoophilic activity and the creation of pornography in general are legal. Laws concerning sale, transmission and ownership vary more widely.

Erotic art, such as animal pornography in cartoons and the like, which does not require the recording of an actual sexual act, are not usually considered sex with animals by the law, and so their status depends upon more general laws such as legal limits upon obscenity or pornography alone, and the thin line between erotic art and pornography.

National laws[edit]


Mentions in the press[edit]

  • "Freddie the Dolphin" (1991, UK) - man accused of masturbating a well known tame dolphin at sea. Charged with a "lewd act". Acquitted. Expert witnesses testified male dolphins use their erections not just sexually, but socially as well, and no sexual inference could be drawn. Judge summing up said of the £30,000 trial cost, "this has been the most expensive lesson in dolphin sociology that he has ever heard of".[18][unreliable source?]
  • Kenneth Pinyan (2005, USA) - man died following anal penetration by a stallion, which was filmed by his friend. The death led to rapid introduction of laws in Washington state against sex with animals.[19][not in citation given]
  • Cambodia (2005) - man caught having a "passionate embrace" in bed with dog, by wife, confessed he loved the dog more and they separated. Cambodian police commented: "As police, we could only solve the problem of his wife then wanting a divorce. We cannot solve the problem of his relationship with his dog, because under Cambodian law it is not strictly illegal... It is amazing, but this husband is not crazy. It seems he is a passionate human being who looked at a dog, and the more he looked, the more passionate he became."[7][unreliable source?]
  • Wisconsin, USA (2007) - Bryan James Hathaway was convicted for having sex with a dead deer. The court case raised some interesting legal issues because the statute prohibits sex with animals, but not carcasses. The defence raised the issue that if a dead animal was an animal, at what point would it cease to be an animal. He was sentenced to 6 months probation and labeled as a sex offender.[20]
  • Kansas, USA (2012) - Joshua Coman was convicted in Kansas of criminal sodomy (a misdemeanor), but the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that he did not have to register as a sex offender.[21][22]
  • Vancouver, Canada (2012) - Brian Cutteridge, bestiality proponent, was arrested after the SPCA claims to have a video of him engaging in sex with one of his dogs.[23]
  • Arizona, USA (2012) - Sarah Dae Walker and her husband pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bestiality in a case where Craigslist was used.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Denmark has somehow only just outlawed bestiality
  2. ^ UKIP voters most supportive of bestiality
  3. ^ Denmark's bestiality ban moves forward
  4. ^ Denmark officially bans bestiality
  5. ^ Denmark outlaws bestiality in narrow vote
  6. ^ Det Dyreetiske Råd: Udtalelse om menneskers seksuelle omgang med dyr, The Animal Ethics Council: Statement on the sexual relations of humans with animals
  7. ^ a b "Hubby does it doggy style". Archived from the original on 3 February 2005.
  8. ^ Regan, Tom. Animal Rights, Human Wrongs. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003, pp. 63–4, 89.
  9. ^ "Sexual Offences Act 2003, Section 69". HM Government. 2003. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  10. ^ The argument that "all sexual activity with animals is automatically abuse" was made for example, in 1) the 2004 case of State vs. Mitchell (Florida), 2) the 2004 Pony case in Utrecht, Holland (cited below), and 3) the 2006 Washington state law which asserts as its foundational premise that "animal cruelty in the first degree is committed when a person knowingly engages in sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal." SB-6417 2006
  11. ^ "Man Charged With Sexually Abusing Animals". WBNS-10TV. June 16, 2011. Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  12. ^ "The Animal In You". The Stranger. February–March 2006. Retrieved 2006-04-30.
  13. ^ "Man charged with having intercourse with his Guide Dog". Archived from the original on 2008-05-21.
  14. ^ "Section 828.126, Florida Statutes". The Florida Senate. 2011. Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  15. ^ Aggrawal, Anil (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4200-4308-2.
  16. ^ Cutteridge, Brian Anthony (2010). "For the Love of Dog: On the Legal Prohibition of Zoophilia in Canada and the United States" (PDF). inter-disciplinary.net. Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  17. ^ Roberts, Michael (2009). "The Unjustified Prohibition against Bestiality: Why the Laws in Opposition Can Find No Support under the Harm Principle". doi:10.2139/ssrn.1328310.
  18. ^ "The Flummery Digest". Archived from the original on 2006-11-18.
  19. ^ Wisch, Rebecca F. (2013). "Table of State Animal Sexual Assault Laws". Michigan State University College of Law. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  20. ^ Haines, Lester (22 March 2007). "Sex with dead deer is illegal, US man finds". The Register.
  21. ^ Rabiner, Stephanie (2012-04-06). "Dog Molester Won't Have to Register as Sex Offender - Legally Weird". Blogs.findlaw.com. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  22. ^ "100494 - State v. Coman - Greene - Kansas Court of Appeals". Kscourts.org. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  23. ^ "Vancouver man faces bestiality charge". CBC News. 26 February 2012.
  24. ^ "Pair plead guilty in Craigslist bestiality case". CBS 5. 28 June 2012.