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HOUSTON – It was shocking enough when Harris County Deputy Andrew Sustaita was caught on tape having sex with a small dog in January, but what may be even more shocking is that he was charged with obscenity and not bestiality.

Well, there’s a reason for that!

Texas is one of only seven states that do not have a bestiality law on the books.

….but maybe not for long.

State Representative Carol Alvarado filed House Bill 1087, which would make sexual contact with an animal a felony. If the animal suffers a serious injury or is killed during the act, it would become a second degree felony.

Alvarado said she had no idea that Texas didn’t have a law regarding bestiality until it was brought to her attention by the Texas Humane Society.

“I didn’t know that until I had discussions with the organization,” said Alvarado. “I guess most of us just assumed it was illegal.”

Under current laws, prosecutors have to get creative to even charge people who engage in bestiality. That’s why you see cases like Deputy Sustaita filed under the Texas obscenity statute. Prosecutors can also file charges of animal cruelty or public lewdness, but those typically don’t come with the kind of stiff penalties for offenders that they want.

“Law enforcement testified very positively on the bill at our meeting,” said Alvarado. “Both the officers and prosecutors want this because their hands are tied.”

While the bill simplifies things for prosecutors, it also gives law enforcement the tools to break up organized groups who take part in large-scale bestiality rings. Officers would be allowed to arrest anyone taking part in the trafficking of animals for the purposes of bestiality or providing a location for people to engage in the act. They would be prosecuted just the same as those who actually have sex with an animal.

Most of those who would be convicted under the bill would be punished by up to two years in prison. In addition, a judge could force anyone placed on probation for bestiality to hand over their animals and take part in psychological counseling as conditions of their probation.

Alvarado is optimistic that there won’t be any problems getting the legislation to Governor Abbott’s desk.

“I don’t think anyone in the House or the Senate would want to oppose it because it’s a problem and it’s widespread throughout Texas,” said Alvarado.

Let’s hope so, because Texas has been without a bestiality law for far too long.