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Week of 07/23/2018

Week of 07/23/2018

The problem with outlawing bestiality is that no matter how severe the punishment, people who sexually assault animals will keep doing it. Criminal codes don’t stop bestiality from happening.

Michigan State educator accused of bestiality

Case in point: Michigan State health physicist Joseph Hattey is accused of sexually assaulting his basset hound and will stand trial as early as August. Michigan has what might be the nation’s strictest law against bestiality, punishing a single count as a felony with up to 15 years behind bars.

According to Hattey’s LinkedIn profile, he knows a lot about molecular biology and microbiology. But at the time when (according to an eyewitness) Hattey allegedly assaulted his own dog, was he aware of Michigan’s law against bestiality? Career physicists are smart people. I think it’s safe to assume Mr. Hattey has known for many years that a bestiality conviction in Michigan is punishable by prison.

We don’t yet know whether Hattey assaulted his dog, though a judge has determined the evidence is strong enough to merit a trial. A jury will have to determine whether the eyewitness is telling the truth. If found guilty, it would appear that Hattey knowing he might go to jail wasn’t enough to stop him from raping his dog. More proof that laws against bestiality don’t stop animal sexual assault from happening.

More broadly, making something a crime doesn’t stop people from doing it. There are still plenty of robberies, murders and violations of posted speed limits, regardless how aggressively we prosecute the people who do these things. Why? Because laws against speeding, robbing and killing don’t stop lawbreakers from making bad choices.

Deterrence isn’t the reason

But deterrence isn’t the reason we punish bad behavior. When someone fails to drive safely, they pay fines and high insurance premiums. If driving carelessly continues, they lose their license. And if they drive when their license is suspended, they go to jail. The real reason speeding is illegal despite the fact people still drive faster than posted speed limits? At least while they’re in jail, persistent offenders are not endangering the public with their reckless driving.

In the wake of the Hattey story, Mary Lou Randour of the Animal Welfare Institute published an informative op-ed in the Detroit News relating to the impact of bestiality on public safety. She points out something law enforcement professionals have known for decades. Animal rape is a strong predictor of pedophilia and sexual violence against humans. So in almost every state in the US, bestiality is a crime — not because it hurts animals, but because it threatens the safety of humans.

Here in the Bluegrass State, the General Assembly still refuses to acknowledge the need for keeping people who sexually assault animals away from children and elderly Kentuckians. If the same self-serving politicians continue to occupy leadership positions, then the 2019 legislative session will not be any better than the sessions that preceded it.

That’s why it’s so important to spread the word about Frankfort’s feckless response to legalized bestiality. There are only two means by which we can enact an animal sexual assault law with teeth. One is to mobilize voters in every district so they can hold their legislators accountable. Another is to elect lawmakers who care more about protecting vulnerable people than they care about protecting special interest groups with twisted agendas.

We will probably need to do both.