March 5, 2023

‘This is a problem in New Mexico,’ expert says about bill to ban bestiality

Kendra Chamberlain

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

“This really is a difficult issue to talk about.”

That’s how Sen. Brenda McKenna, D-Corrales, kicked off a discussion Saturday on a bipartisan bill that creates the crimes of bestiality and aggravated bestiality.

It wasn’t a long discussion.

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously endorsed Senate Bill 215 after a short presentation.

“One of the most common questions that we have gotten about this bill … is whether this is a serious issue in New Mexico, whether it happens here,” said Jessica Johnson, chief government affairs officer of Animal Protection Voters.

“We did submit materials that were distributed to the committee secretary this morning with some testimony and evidence to kind of help answer that question and show that this is a problem in New Mexico,” she said.

McKenna is co-sponsoring the bill with Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque.

“Bestiality is not only cruel to animals, but it’s often connected to other abhorrent crimes, like sexual abuse of children,” McKenna said. “Up to 38% of child sex abusers have also sexually abused animals. A third of those arrested for animal-related pornography also possess child pornography.”

Over the past decade or so, most states that had previously lacked a law specifically criminalizing sex between humans and animals have passed such prohibitions. New Mexico is one of two states, the other being West Virginia, that still doesn’t have a law against bestiality on the books. 

In addition to establishing the crime of bestiality, SB 215 also creates the crime of promoting bestiality, which includes coercing, manipulating or soliciting another person to commit bestiality. These would all be fourth-degree felonies, while aggravated bestiality, which Johnson said would mean “committing bestiality or promoting bestiality in the presence of a minor or involving a minor as a participant,” would be a third-degree felony.

The bill also outlines consequences for those convicted of the crime of bestiality, “which includes having animals in their custody or care seized … and they may be ordered to submit to psychological assessment and counseling and pay restitution for the care of animals harmed by their crime,” Johnson said.

Albuquerque veterinarian Daniel Levenson, president of the New Mexico Veterinary Medical Association, urged the committee to pass the bill.

“As veterinarians, our purpose is to promote the health and safety of animals in our community,” he said.

“We believe that all animals need to be treated with respect,” he added. “Outlawing this cruel and harmful act will provide a tool for professionals like veterinarians, law enforcement and the courts to address this and prevent other behaviors that harm our communities.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.