TALLAHASSEE —The act of bestiality is a step closer to becoming illegal in Florida now that a Senate agriculture committee voted to slap a third-degree felony charge on anyone who has sex with animals.
Florida is one of only 16 states that still permits bestiality — a fact that animal-rights activist and state Sen. Nan Rich learned to her horror when a Panhandle man three years ago was suspected of accidentally asphyxiating a family goat that he held by the collar during a sex act.
"There's a tremendous correlation between sexually deviant behavior and crimes against children and crimes against animals," said Rich, a Sunrise Democrat. "This is long overdue. These are heinous crimes. And people belong in jail."
But the Mossy Head man suspected of assaulting Meg the goat was never charged because law enforcement officials could not link him to the scene. The suspect was arrested months later in a separate goat abduction, said Walton County Assistant State Attorney Walter Parker.
Rich's legislation would target only those who derived or helped others derive "sexual gratification'' from an animal, specifying that conventional dog-judging contests and animal-husbandry practices are permissible.
That last provision tripped up Miami Democratic Sen. Larcenia Bullard.
"People are taking these animals as their husbands? What's husbandry?" she asked.
Some senators stifled their laughter as Sen. Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican, explained that husbandry is raising and caring for animals.
Bullard didn't get it.
"So that maybe was the reason the lady was so upset about that monkey?" Bullard asked, referring to a Connecticut case where a woman's suburban chimpanzee went mad and was shot.
"I'm not familiar with that particular incident or case," Dean said.
After the unanimous committee vote, Rich predicted the bill would pass easily this year. She said bestiality used to be illegal in Florida, but the statute was ruled unconstitutional for being too broad.
Marc Caputo can be reached at mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com.