BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) -- A bill that would make bestiality a felony in Wisconsin is finally on its way to the Governor's desk after the assembly approved it late Tuesday night.
“We're just really glad it's done, just gives us a little peace of mind,” said Renee Vandenberg, owner of Cornerstone Farm.
She has 16 horses she uses to train young riders and help people with autism.
Vandenberg has been an advocate for Senator Andre Jacque's bill to make sexual abuse of an animal a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
“We feel like there's at least some kind of teeth into this bill when it comes to horses and horse ownership, but it goes so much more than that. It has to do with all kinds of animals, dogs, and abuse to animals that just shouldn't happen,” said Vandenberg.
The bill would create a new crime punishable by up to 12 and half years in prison.
Sterling Rachwal is one of the reasons Sen. Jacque took action to make the penalties for bestiality stronger.
Rachwal was convicted of misdemeanor animal mistreatment charges in 2018 in Brown County for molesting horses.
“This guy, Sterling Rachwal, had actually attacked one of my friend's sister's horses and the horse had to be put down for her injuries. It was something we were really concerned with,” said Vandenberg.
Sen. Jacque says the bill also closes a loophole in the current law.
“The loophole in many cases kept the penalty from being successfully charged in the first place because you had individuals who would say they used some implement other than their bodily organs to commit the abuse,” said Sen. Jacque.
The bill also address child victims who may have been forced to do sexual acts with animals.
Sentencing would vary based on the nature of the abuse.
“Now instead of just getting a slap on the wrist, people will get some kind of punishment for committing crimes against the animals,” said Vandenberg.