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Va. Senate bill criminalizes sex involving animals

The Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee has passed Senator Scott Surovell’s bill to ban the sexual abuse of animals, forced sexual contact with animals, the possession of animals for sexual purposes, and the production and distribution of materials depicting sexual contact with animals. The bill, SB 249, passed by a party-line vote of 9 to 6.

“Virginia’s current law is outdated and has not kept up with technology or the animal abuse issue.  This bill will remedy that oversight and ensure all heinous acts of abuse against animals can be prosecuted as criminal offenses,” Surovell said.

Studies show a strong correlation between child sexual abuse and animal abuse.  One study found that 31 per cent of animal sex offenders also committed sexual abuse against children and many use animal porn to groom child abuse victims. 

SB 246 allows for the ban of possession of any animals by individuals found guilty of these offenses for a period of up to five years. The legislation also permits the court to mandate psychiatric or psychological counseling for offenders.  Dissemination of animal porn currently carries no penalty of any kind. 

Tabitha Treloar, Director of Communications for the Richmond SPCA, spoke in support of the bill in committee. “The Richmond SPCA thanks Senator Surovell for introducing this bill to address the serious crime of animal sexual abuse and we cannot understate the importance of bringing Virginia code up to date to address how these crimes are perpetrated in the current era,” Treloar said.

The bill now goes to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee for vetting and if approved, to the floor next week. 

Senator Scott A. Surovell has represented parts of Fairfax, Prince William, and Stafford Counties since 2015. Prior to his time in the Senate, Surovell served six years in the House of Delegates.

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