The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a person must actually penetrate an animal or vice versa in order for the act to be considered bestiality.
In a judgement released Thursday, Canada's top court ruled in agreement with a lower court that overturned a bestiality conviction.
The graphic ruling explains the case like this: A man, known in the judgment as D. L. W., tried to make his teenage stepdaughter have sex with the family dog, but that proved impossible, so he spread peanut butter on her vagina and made the dog lick it off while he photographed it. Later, he asked her to do it again, so he could make a video.
The judge presiding over the man's first trial ruled bestiality "means touching between a person and an animal for a person's sexual purpose," and penetration isn't required. He was convicted of numerous sexual offenses, including bestiality. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
But when the man appealed that conviction to the Court of Appeal, he won his case, and the bestiality conviction was dropped. The Crown then appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In today's decision, a majority on the Supreme Court upheld the acquittal.
The ruling goes into the history of the crime of bestiality, which was once categorized as "buggery" and/or "sodomy." But bottom line, in all cases, someone had to be penetrating the animal or vice versa.
"The term 'bestiality' has a well-established legal meaning and refers to sexual intercourse between a human and an animal. Penetration has always been understood to be an essential element of bestiality." The courts, they ruled, are not in a place to "broaden" the scope of liability for the offense—that's the parliament's job.
"Parliament may wish to consider whether the present provisions adequately protect children and animals. But it is for parliament, not the courts to expand the scope of criminal liability for this offense."
It points out that although sexual offenses against humans have seen many revisions over the years, the definition of bestiality has remained the same.
The dissenting judge, Justice Rosalie Abella, who thought nightmare stepdad's appeal should be dismissed, argued it's common sense to assume that parliament intended to protect children and animals from abuse, including that which doesn't involve penetration.
"Parliament must have intended protection for children from witnessing or being forced to participate in any sexual activity with animals," she wrote.
"Since penetration is physically impossible with most animals and for half the population, requiring it as an element of the offense eliminates from censure most sexually exploitative conduct with animals."
Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, which acted as an intervener in the appeal, told VICE the ruling shows the criminal laws for protecting animals are out of date.
"Sexually abusing animals is completely unacceptable, it is contrary to our values. Canadians care deeply about protecting animals from this type of cruelty and sexual abuse," she said, adding that "people who abuse animals often sexually abuse children as well, as the accused did in this case."
In February, Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith introduced a private member's bill to close loopholes and expand Canada's animal protection laws.
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