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Bestiality, monkey husbands and Bullard. Oh my!

The act of bestiality is a step closer to becoming illegal in Florida now that a Senate committee voted to slap a third-degree felony charge on anyone who has sex with animals.

Florida is one of only 16 states that still permit bestiality – a fact that animal-rights activist and Sunrise Sen. Nan Rich learned to her horror when a Panhandle man three years ago was suspected of accidentally asphyxiating a family goat with which he was copulating.

 “There’s a tremendous correlation between sexually deviant behavior and crimes against children and crimes against animals,” said Rich, a Sunrise Democrat. “This is long overdue. These are heinous crimes. And people belong in jail.”

But the Mossy Head man suspected of assaulting Meg the Goat was never charged, because law enforcement officials could never link him to the crime scene. The suspect was arrested in a separate goat-abducting months later, said Walton County Assistant State Attorney Walter Parker.

Rich’s proposal was amended to target only those who derived or helped others derive “sexual gratification” from an animal. The amendment specified that conventional dog-judging contests and animal-husbandry practices are permissible.

That last provision tripped up Miami Democratic Sen. Larcenia Bullard.

 “People are taking these animals as their husbands? What’s husbandry?” she asked. Some senators stifled their laughter as Chairman Charlie Dean explained that husbandry it was the rearing and caring of animals.

Bullard didn’t get it.

“So that maybe have been the reason the lady was so upset about that monkey? Bullard asked, referring to a Connecticut case where a woman’s suburban chimpanzee want mad and was shot.

 “I’m not familiar with that particular incident or case,” Dean said.

 After the unanimous committee vote, Sen. Rich predicted the bill would pass easily this year. She said bestiality used to be illegal in Florida, but the statute was ruled unconstitutional because it was considered too broad.

Rich noted that bestiality cases have cropped up throughout the state, including the abuse of a seeing-eye dog in Tallahassee and a horse in the Florida Keys. The Mossy Head case gained added attention when a local man produced T-shirts with slogans like “”Baaa Means No!” and “What Happens in Mossy Head, Stays in Mossy Head.”

“It’s interesting,” Rich said. “People either giggle or get very silent. A lot of people don’t believe something like this can happen. But it does.”