Horse owners want more penalties for repeat animal sex offenders

Published: May. 4, 2017 at 5:57 PM CDT
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After a repeat offender is arrested again for allegedly molesting area horses, horse owners in northeast Wisconsin are calling on lawmakers to create steeper punishments for people who have repeatedly been charged with sexual abuse to animals.

In Brown County Court, a judge found probable cause to hold 53-year-old Sterling Rachwal on $5,000 bond for molesting at least one horse in Brown County.

They say he was also caught on camera molesting a horse in Manitowoc County. Those charges are expected to be added soon.All of the charges are considered misdemeanors in the state of Wisconsin—a fact that is not sitting well with the horse community.

Horse owners tell Action 2 News: they are angry Rachwal has been given so many opportunities to re-offend.

Wednesday in the courtroom, prosecutors listed off nine past charges relating to the sexual gratification or abuse of animals dating back to 1982—in Fond du Lac, Monroe, Waupaca and Outagamie counties. Rachwal was both convicted of the crimes and also found not guilty by reason of mental defect. He served time in prison only when the animals died because of his mutilation of their body parts, which is a felony. Rachwal spent years in state mental rehab facilities; his last stint was from 2010 to 2015

Several horse owners tell Action 2 news his release in 2015 gave them cause to install security cameras and locks on their barns.

Linda Rue owns horses, a stable, and runs a business called Creature Comforts Pet Service of the Fox Valley. "Why he is at large—right now he's not—but $5,000 dollars bail?” Rue asked incredulously. “We have to change the laws to keep Sterling safe from himself and safe from others because someone will take the law into their own hands. This horse community has had enough. We've had enough”

Jackie Miller, one of Rachwl's suspected victims said, " know that a lot of people have went through this and he just keeps getting released."

Horse owners say sterling Rachwal has been 'red flagged' as an animal abuser to watch out for in northeast Wisconsin for decades, and they fell like laws aren't there to protect them from his actions.

After discovering Rachwal's history molesting horses, Rue moved her horse stables from that far side of the barn to this side closer to her house so she could keep track of her horses during the night.

"I'm almost offended that I have to go to this length when Sterling has been behind bars and has been diagnosed. Why do we have to live in this fear? My horses should be down at the horse barn, but I can't hear what's going on down there,” she said.

Right now, prosecutors can only charge sterling with a misdemeanor under current state laws.

Horse owners want lawmakers to change that and make sexual abuse against animals a felony and making sure repeat offenders like Sterling will face jail time for just going near animals.

"Sterling is not an idiot; he knows what he can get away with,” said Rue. “He likes the excitement; he likes the daring. He stakes out the farms. He knows what he's doing."

Rachwal is expected to face more charges next time he is in court Wednesday.

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