The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted in favor of a bill Tuesday evening that would ban bestiality, an act currently not illegal in Texas. The vote moves the proposed law closer to consideration by the full Senate.

The bill would make participation in, promotion of or observation of any sexual contact with an animal punishable by up to two years in state jail. If an animal were to suffer serious bodily injuries or die because of the sexual contact, the offender would face a third-degree felony charge.

"These are serious crimes," said state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, the bill's author. "The state's response should be as well."

Protecting animals from sexual abuse also protects children from pedophiles and partners from sexual violence, state Rep. Carol Alvarado, author of the House version of the bill, told The Texas Tribune. Alvarado, a Houston Democrat, pointed to a 2008 sexual misconduct study that concluded there's a higher risk for committing child sexual abuse if a person has engaged in bestiality.

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The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas and Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg have expressed support for the legislation. Both pointed to numerous cases of sexual abuse of animals in which prosecutors were only able to pursue charges for animal cruelty or public lewdness. Such laws don't cover, for example, the filming of animals in sexual situations, Ogg noted in her letter.

Seven other states and Washington D.C. don't have laws on the books banning bestiality, according to the Humane Society.

A panel earlier this month recommended Alvarado's version of the bill in the House be passed.

Read more:

  • Bestiality isn't illegal in Texas. A Houston lawmaker wants to change that.