There are currently 10 states in the nation that do not outright ban the sexual abuse of animals, though violators can be prosecuted under hard-to-prove misdemeanor animal-cruelty charges.
“Please pass this bill and give law enforcement and prosecutors in this state the tool they need to enforce these laws,” Representative Katherine Rogers, a Concord Democrat and the bill’s prime sponsor, told members of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, the Concord Monitor reported. “It’s unfortunately something that’s needed, and New Hampshire shouldn’t be one of the few states that doesn’t have it.”
Perhaps surprisingly, the bipartisan bill has met with strong opposition from the farming industry. Representatives argue that it could criminalize animal husbandry, which includes artificial insemination and embryo transfer for selective breeding.
The bill would exempt medical procedures by commercial farmers, but Commissioner of Agriculture Lorraine Merrill worries that small farmers who don’t qualify as commercial would not be protected.
“I don’t believe that’s in the spirit or the intent of the bill, and I can’t foresee any reasonable prosecutor attempting to use this bill in that fashion,” Jeremy Hoffman, a Virginia police detective and expert on the topic, told the Monitor.
“Without meaningful legislation, your state will become the preferred space for animal sex offenders to come to,” Hoffman told the Union Leader.
As the bill currently stands, sexual abuse of animals would become a Class B felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison. On Tuesday, the committee was scheduled to vote about potentially downgrading it to a misdemeanor, at least for the first offense.