Animal Sexual Abuse
Animal sexual abuse (also referred to as zoophilia, bestiality, zooerasty or sodomy) is the sexual molestation of an animal by a human, or the coercion of another to do the same. This kind of animal abuse includes a wide range of behaviors such as vaginal, anal, or oral penetration; fondling; oral-genital contact; penetration using an object; and killing or injuring an animal for sexual gratification. Animal sexual abuse may or may not include physical violence other than the sexual violation, and may or may not result in physical injury to the animal. Animal sexual abuse, like rape, is the eroticisation of violence, control, and exploitation. The sexual abuse of animals is often linked to the sexual abuse of women and children (Kowal, 1998). A child's sexual abuse of an animal may be a warning sign that the child is a victim or witness of physical, sexual or emotional abuse themselves (see also pg 256 in Appendix IV, Fact Sheets and Articles, "Animal Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet").
Keep these correlations in mind when investigating domestic disturbances or sexual assaults where there are/have been animals in the home.
Things to be aware of when investigating:
- The animal may appear fearful by cowering or crawling into a hiding place.
- Physical symptoms may include traumatic injury to the anus, rectum, or vulvar/vaginal areas.
What to do
- When investigating sexual or domestic assault, consider the possibility that animals in the home are being used in sex acts, either by the primary aggressor or by the victims, who may be coerced by the perpetrator.
- Not all states have laws specifically prohibiting bestiality, including Vermont. Check with your State's Attorney and pursue these incidents under the animal cruelty statute.
- When appropriate, request a search warrant for videotapes depicting sexual acts between humans and animals.
- If there is a computer in the home, request a warrant for the contents of the hard drive, computer disks, and any other computer media to search for evidence of browsing or downloading of images depicting bestiality. This can help corroborate an animal cruelty/bestiality case.
- If you have probable cause for animal cruelty and/or bestiality, secure the residence, then apply for a warrant to take the animals from the home. Coordinate these efforts with your State's Attorney's office and your animal control officer or humane society. Make arrangements for animal control or the humane society to transport the animals from the scene after the warrant is executed.
- When writing your affidavit for animal cruelty or bestiality, be certain to articulate the animal's reaction to what was occurring (i.e. the dog was yelping and trying to get away).
- When relevant, take photos of the physical condition of the animal and their surroundings, and include this as evidence in your case.
- Have the animal(s) examined by a veterinarian and obtain a sworn statement regarding the health of the animal. Document any acute or chronic illness or injury. Care should be taken to collect human or animal sperm, semen, seminal fluid, vaginal fluids, epithelial cells, pubic hairs, and any other existing evidence. A standard human rape kit can be used to collect this evidence.
- Interview the family, friends and neighbors of the accused. They may have heard or witnessed some of the incidents.
- Offenders may travel out of the state or country, and pay money to see animals having sex with humans. Determine whether the offender has bragged to friends about seeing this sort of thing.
Example 15 - Animal Sexual Abuse
A juvenile female victim disclosed to her guidance counselor that her uncle sexually assaulted her over the period of approximately one year.
- A police investigation into this allegation resulted in the arrest of the accused uncle. Subsequently, a search warrant for the residence was executed for the purposes of corroborating the victim's statement (i.e. her knowledge of the accused's bedroom, pornographic videos, and other sexual paraphernalia).
- A dog that was in the home during the execution of the warrant was behaving strangely and hiding under the bed.
- Several pornographic videotapes were taken into evidence, at which time several homemade videotapes were found, which depicted the accused and his wife engaging in sex acts with two dogs, one of which was the dog witnessed during the initial execution of the search warrant.
- A warrant was obtained and the dog was taken to the humane society. The dog was subsequently euthanized after it was determined he had parvo virus, a highly contagious and often fatal disease. The other dog had been given away prior to the investigation.
In addition to the charge of sexual assault on a minor, the accused was charged with two counts of misdemeanour animal cruelty. His wife was charged with the same.