Zoophilia and the law

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Zoophilia and the law looks at the laws governing humans performing sex acts on 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.


The practice of humans having sex with animals sometimes involves animal cruelty or animal abuse, which often involves zoosadism. However, not all sexual activity with animals involves cruelty.

Recent legislation[edit]

For centuries, sexual acts on animals were illegal under sodomy laws or "crime against nature" laws. Since the 1950s most sodomy laws have been repealed and in some places specific anti-bestiality laws have been enacted.

Bestiality was outlawed in Norway in 2008,[1] The Netherlands in 2010,[2] Australian Capital Territory in 2011,[3] Sweden in 2013,[4] and Denmark in 2015.[5]

In the U.S., as of 2012, bestiality is illegal in 37 states. Most state bestiality laws were enacted between 1999 and 2012.[6] Laws were enacted in Pennsylvania in 1999,[7] Iowa in 2001,[8] Illinois in 2002,[9] Maryland in 2002,[10] Washington in 2006,[11] Arizona in 2006,[12] Indiana in 2007,[13] Tennessee in 2007,[14] Colorado in 2007,[15] Alaska in 2010,[16] and Florida in 2011.[17] Laws which prohibit non-abusive bestiality have been criticized for being discriminatory, unjust and unconstitutional.[18][19]


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.[20]

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.[21] In some U.S. states, a person who engages in bestiality can be charged with animal cruelty.[22]

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.[23]

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.[24] On October 1, 2011, the state of Florida State Law 828.126, F.S went into effect, banning sex with animals.[25]

Laws against bestiality[edit]

Aggrawal has discussed extensively on laws against bestiality.[26] 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.

Zoophilic pornography[edit]

Main article: Animal pornography

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]

Country or territory Zoosexual activity Sale and distribution of zoophilic pornography Ownership of zoophilic pornography
Australia Australia No Illegal
(Penalty varies by state/territory - up to 14 years)[27]
No Illegal[28] Yes
Belgium Belgium No Illegal since 2007
(penalty: up to 6 months in prison and a maximum fine of €1.000)[29]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Belize Belize No Illegal
(penalty: up to 10 years in prison). "Every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years."[30]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Brazil Brazil No Illegal since 2015
(Penalty: Maximum of 3 years in prison and fine)[31]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Canada Canada No Illegal if penetration occurs,[32] otherwise Yes Legal[33] Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Czech Republic Czech Republic Yes Legal No Illegal[34] Yes Legal
Denmark Denmark No Illegal since 1 July 2015[35][36]
(Penalty: Fine or a maximum of 4 months in prison)
Yes Legal Yes Legal
Ecuador Ecuador No Illegal
(Penalty: Maximum of 8 years in prison)[37]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Ethiopia Ethiopia No Illegal
(Penalty: Imprisonment (no length given)[38]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Finland Finland Yes Legal since 1971[39] No Illegal[40] Yes Legal
France France No Illegal since 2004
(Penalty: Maximum of 2 years in prison and €30,000 fine)[41]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Fiji Fiji No Illegal
(penalty: up to 14 years in prison) - Unnatural offences. 175. Any person who-

*(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or

  • (b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or
  • (c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature,

is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years, with or without corporal punishment.[42]

Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Germany Germany Yes Legal, unless the animal is forced[43] No Illegal
(Penalty: Fine or maximum of 3 years in prison)[44]
Yes Legal (as long as it is not owned with intention of publicizing, sharing or selling)[44]
Ghana Ghana No Illegal
(Penalty: Maximum of 3 years in prison)[45]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Hong Kong Hong Kong No Illegal
(Penalty: Maximum of 10 years in prison and $50,000 fine)[46]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Hungary Hungary Yes Legal, unless the animal is harmed[47] Yes Legal Yes Legal
Republic of Ireland Ireland No Illegal
(Penalty: Maximum of life in prison)[48]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
India India No Illegal since 1860[49] Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Iran Iran No Illegal
(Penalty: First three convictions are punished by ta'zir as determined by a judge
Fourth offense is the death penalty)[50]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Jamaica Jamaica No Illegal
(Penality: "Unnatural Offences": "Whoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed with either mankind or any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding 10 years.")[51]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Malawi Malawi No Illegal
(penalty: up to 14 years in prison) - "Unnatural offences -

Any person who —

  • (a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or
  • (b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or
  • (c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of

nature, shall be guilty of a felony and shall be liable to imprisonment for fourteen years, with or without corporal punishment."[52]

Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Malaysia Malaysia No Illegal
(Penalty: Maximum of 20 years in prison, fines, and whipping)[53]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Mexico Mexico No / Yes Varies by state or district. Some states, such as Veracruz[54] and Quintana Roo[55] have banned sex with animals under Animales Protección Leys. The laws of Veracruz includes the word "zoofilico" in its "cruelty" text. Quintana Roo includes the word "zoofilia" in its text. The federal district has banned it.[56] No / Yes Varies by state or district.[54][55] No / Yes Varies by state or district.[54][55]
Namibia Namibia No Illegal[57] Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Netherlands Netherlands No Illegal since 2010
(Penalty: Maximum of 1 year in prison and €19,500 fine)[58]
No Illegal since 2010
(Penalty: Maximum imprisonment 6 months or a fine of the third category (€7,800))[59]
No Illegal since 2010
(Penalty: Maximum imprisonment 6 months or a fine of the third category (€7,800))
New Zealand New Zealand No Illegal
(Penalty: Maximum of 7 years in prison
Maximum of 3 years in prison)[60][61]
No Illegal No Illegal
Nigeria Nigeria No Illegal
(Penalty: up to 14 years in prison.) Text:

Any person who- (1) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or (2) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or (3) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature; is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.[62]

Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Norway Norway No Illegal since 2008[63] Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Philippines Philippines No Illegal[64][unreliable source?] Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Poland Poland No Illegal since 1997. Defined as a type of animal abuse.
(Penalty: Maximum 3 years in prison, donation to animal welfare charity and prohibition of owning an animal for up to 10 years. If done in order to distribute or sell the penalty is increased to a minimum of 6 months and maximum of 8 years in prison)[65]
No Illegal
(Penalty: minimum of 6 months and maximum 8 years in prison)[66]
Yes Legal (as long as it is not owned with intention of publicizing, sharing or selling)
Portugal Portugal No Illegal[67] Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Romania Romania Yes Legal[68]

Animal welfare is subject to Law 205/2004 on animal protection,[69] but neither this law, nor the penal code, make any specific reference to zoophilia.[70]

Emblem-question.svg Ambiguous (Law only mentions a ban on "sites with [...] zoophilic content", which are to be blocked by ISPs at the request of the National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications)[71] Yes check.svg Legal[72]
Singapore Singapore No Illegal
(Penalty: Maximum of 2 years in prison and fine)[73]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
South Africa South Africa No Illegal
(Penalty: determined by judge)[74]
No Illegal
(Penalty: maximum 5 years in prison and R200,000 fine)[75]
Sweden Sweden No Illegal since 2014
(Penalty : fine, prison up to 2 years, or both)[76]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Switzerland Switzerland No Illegal[77] No Illegal[78] No Illegal
Thailand Thailand No Illegal. Banned in 2014.[79] No Zoophilic pornography falls within the definition of pornography. Distribution of any pornography is illegal. Yes
Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago No Illegal[80] Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg
Turkey Turkey No Illegal No Illegal No Illegal
United Kingdom United Kingdom No Illegal since 1290
(Penalty: Maximum of 2 years in prison for conviction on indictment
Maximum of 6 months in prison and a fine for summary conviction) Intercourse with an animal (see Sexual Offences Act 2003)[20]
No Illegal since 2008[81] (see Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008) No Illegal since 2008 (see Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008)
United States United States
No / Yes Varies by state, territory, or district. No / Yes Varies by state, territory, or district. No / Yes Varies by state, territory, or district.
Zambia Zambia No Illegal
(Penalty: Maximum of 5 years in prison)[82]
Emblem-question.svg Emblem-question.svg


Main article: History of zoophilia

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".[83][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.[6][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."[84][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.[85]
  • 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.[86][87]
  • 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.[88]
  • Arizona, USA (2012) - Sarah Dae Walker and her husband pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bestiality in a case where Craigslist was used.[89]

See also[edit]


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