MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - A De Pere lawmaker is once again pushing for a bill that would make sexual contact with an animal a felony in Wisconsin.
Republican State Sen. Andre Jacque is re-introducing legislation to make the charge a sex crime.
He's pushing for tougher penalties in response to the case of Sterling Rachwal. Rachwal has been charged multiple times over the past two decades for molesting horses, but spent little time in custody. Critics have protested what they say are light sentences for his crimes.
The Protecting Animals of Wisconsin (PAW) Act would make "a technical change to the definition of sexual contact with an animal to prohibit perpetrators from using any body part or object on an animal for sexual gratification, not just their sex organ (closing a loophole that has unfortunately been exploited)," Jacque says.
Currently, sexual abuse of an animal is a misdemeanor in Wisconsin.
The PAW Act would make it a felony to have sex with an animal; promote or participate in sexual contact with animals; create, possess or distribute obscene material of a person having sex with an animal; and to advertise, harbor, transport, provide or obtain an animal for purpose of sexual contact.
It would also be a felony to force a child to have sexual contact with an animal or have sexual contact with an animal in front of a child.
Felonies would be increased if it happens more than once.
Jacque states: "A study of 44,000 adult sex offenders found that prior sexual abuse of animals is the number one behavioral predictor for sexual abuse of a child, and individuals who sexually abuse animals are very frequently violent, predatory sex offenders who share many common traits with pedophiles."
Jacque has introduced similar legislation in the past. In 2018, the state Senate declined to take it up for a vote.
Republican State Rep. Chuck Wichgers is co-sponsoring the bill in the Assembly.
CLICK HERE to view full text of the PAW Act.