What is there to do about a problem like Sterling Rachwal, who received a sentence of probation in 2018? He’s terrorized Wisconsin horse owners for more than 30 years, particularly in northeastern Wisconsin, where many know how to spot his car. The horses he assaults are traumatized and later develop behavioral problems.
In response to the outcry, state Sen. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere), is sponsoring a bill to make bestiality a felony, which sounds pretty straightforward, but in a busy Legislature, thorny topics often get sidelined, especially when lawmakers have seen the legislation as designed to target only one man. The current version, approved in the state Senate in October, moved on to the Assembly, where it still hadn’t passed as of press time. Jacque said he remains hopeful that it will, although different versions have failed to pass in previous sessions. According to the Michigan State University Animal Legal and Historical Center, out of 46 states that have outlawed bestiality, 25 of them treat it as a felony.
Activists paint a disturbing picture of a greater problem. According to Megan Nicholson, Wisconsin director for the Humane Society, the Wisconsin section of a now-defunct zoophilia site accumulated a large number of personal-style ads posted by people looking for animals or offering to share theirs. She notes that animal sexual abuse is also one of the strongest predictors of child sexual abuse. “This isn’t just about one person,” she says.