Editor's note: This story was updated to include the House members who voted against the bill, and later updated to include statements by several of them who said they intended to vote for it. It was updated May 21 to include the final House vote.
The Texas Legislature on Saturday moved one step closer to joining the large majority of state governments that consider sexual conduct between humans and animals or fowl a crime.
Senate bill 1232, by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would make bestiality a state jail felony and require offenders to be added to the state’s sex offender registry. The punishment would jump to a second-degree felony if the crime occurred in the presence of a child or resulted in serious injury or death for the animal.
The legislation tentatively passed 122 to 6 and must receive final approval in the lower chamber before being sent back to the Texas Senate.
The House members who voted no included state Reps. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin; Ernest Bailes, R-Coldspring; and James White, R-Hillister. Reps. John Cyrier, R-Lockhart; John Raney, R-College Station and Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston were initially shown voting no, then later filed statements recorded in the House journal that they intended to vote yes. (Update, May 21: the House gave the bill final approval with a 141-0 vote)
The bill analysis identifies several new crimes under the bestiality umbrella. They include: “engaging in an act involving contact between the person's mouth, anus, or genitals and the anus or genitals of an animal or the person's anus or genitals and the mouth of the animal.”
It would also be illegal to own, sell, buy or transfer an animal for the sole purpose of subjecting it to sexual conduct with a person. A person wouldn't be charged if the practice was considered generally accepted or a lawful animal husbandry or veterinary practice.
The legislation, if finally passed, would remove Texas from the short list of states that don’t consider bestiality a crime. According to a 2017 report by Michigan State University, Hawaii, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia are the only states or municipalities that don’t have a current ban on the practice.
During committee hearings on the bill earlier this session, opponents of the proposal argued a person should be prosecuted for the crime under current laws that outlaw animal cruelty or lewdness. But supporters said that many crimes committed against animals aren't realized until well after the act. Supporters also argued that "animal sex abuse occurs in private, and public lewdness laws are ineffective" to combat the crime.
Read related Tribune coverage:
- Texas is one of eight states that does not have a ban on the books against bestiality.
- 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.