MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Advocates are sharing their stories with state lawmakers Thursday in hopes of getting a tougher law on animal sexual assault.
Generic horse stock photo: MGN
They spoke at a public hearing in front of the committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety in support of Assembly Bill 666.
State Rep. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere) is trying to get the full legislature to take up the bill, which would make it a felony to have sex with an animal in Wisconsin.
Currently, sex acts with an animal are a misdemeanor unless the animal is disfigured, mutilated or killed.
Rep. Jacque circulated the bill after hearing reports about repeated horse abuser Sterling Rachwal.
Jacque testified that his bill "makes a technical change to the definition of sexual contact, which is very necessary to prohibit perpetrators to using any part of any body part or object on an animal for sexual gratification not just their sex organ, closing a loophole that unfortunately has been exploited."
The bill also increases penalties for repeat offenders.
Rachwal has been arrested several times for sexually abusing horses on area farms.
On Jan. 12, Rachwal was sentenced to probation for molesting horses in Brown and Manitowoc counties.
Brown County District Attorney Dana Johnson told the committee how Rachwal's animal abuse arrests date back to the 1980s.
Johnson says current law constrains prosecutors.
"I felt kind of handcuffed and so did I think our judge--we had a very good judge-- and I think our judge felt the same constraints that there's only so much we can do," Johnson says. "We can max him out and let him serve his time and he's running around our communities, and we don't know where he's at."
Horse owners also testified about the fear they have for the safety of their animals.
"Whenever I see a red truck [Rachwal drove a red truck], you know driving down country roads, I'm scared," said Diane, a local horse owner. "It's like a type of PTSD, because these animals are our friends, they're our partners, we work with them, they're our pets."
The Wisconsin State Director of the Humane Society of the United States says support for this bill goes beyond the Rachwal case.
"This bill is not about one individual. What we know is that thousands of people nationwide, including here in Wisconsin, solicit or offer sex with animals every year," said Melissa Tedrowe.
She continued, "One one popular bestiality forum, the most recent Wisconsin roll thread, which is essentially a thread where people say where they're located in the state, has 117 replies and has been viewed 7,500 times."
The committee heard no opposition to the bill.
Rep. Jacque says 23 other states have similar laws on the books.