Officials tout new bestiality law but say cases are tough to prove

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Officials tout new bestiality law but say cases are tough to prove

Even as a Cleveland man faces charges for allegedly having sex with animals, local animal control officials say it will be difficult to prove cases under Ohio’s new bestiality law.

“Just like children who can’t say what happened to (them), it makes it very difficult to investigate these cases,” said Mark Kumpf, director of the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center.

Scott Turner, 47, of Cleveland, was charged last week by a Cleveland Animal Protective League officer with engaging in sexual conduct with an animal, court records show. He was been ordered to appear in court Oct. 5 for a hearing on the second-degree misdemeanor charge. Turner could not be reached for comment.

Turner served 11 years in prison on multiple convictions, including rape and kidnapping, involving sex crimes against children. He went to prison in 2004 and was released under supervision in 2015, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections web site.

“He had written a letter in which he indicated that he had oral sex with the dog and that the dog was in his custody,” said Sharon Harvey, president and chief executive of Cleveland Animal Protective League.

Harvey said the league, which has enforcement power in animal cruelty cases, was provided with the letter. The dog is now with its owner, who is not Turner, she said.

Turner is believed to be the first person charged under Ohio’s bestiality ban, which took effect in March. Harvey said there is a “significant underground population (that) regularly engage in this behavior” with companion animals or livestock.

“Anybody who has rational thought cannot believe that this behavior is normal or should be condoned,” she said.

Kumpf said some people who engage in bestiality argue that they love the animal and it enjoys the sexual contact.

“It’s beyond preposterous. But they still believe it,” Kumpf said. “Thank goodness our legislators made it illegal.”

After multiple failed efforts to ban bestiality, Ohio legislators in December passed the law making sex with animals a crime. Previously, such cases were prosecuted under animal cruelty laws, which required showing that the animal was injured or suffered, Kumpf said. Ohio had been one of the few states that did not ban bestiality.

At least one Ohio municipality, Warren, also bans bestiality. WKBN-TV reported on Wednesday that a 16-year-old boy had admitted to having sexual contact with a dog and faced charges there.

Currently, bestiality is illegal in every state except West Virginia, Kentucky, Hawaii, Wyoming, New Mexico and Washington, D.C, Kumpf said.

Kumpf said an animal who has been abused “will act differently, display behavior. Owners may notice unusual injuries, odors, discharges or something.”

“The other thing that often catches the bad guys is they are proud of what they do,” Kumpf said. “That’s one of the ways we catch folks is they tend to take pictures or document activities.”

Ohio’s law makes bestiality a second-degree misdemeanor. The law:

  • Prohibits a person from engaging in sexual conduct with an animal and related acts;
  • Provides for the seizure and impoundment of an animal that is the subject of a violation;
  • Authorizes a sentencing court to require an offender to undergo psychological evaluation or counseling.

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