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Gov. Evers signs bill making bestiality a felony in Wisconsin

Sterling Rachwal

MADISON — Sexually abusing an animal is now a felony in Wisconsin under a bill that Gov. Tony Evers signed into law Tuesday, March 3.

Evers signed more than 60 bills and vetoed two others. He also signed measures designed to combat the misuse of opioids and other drugs and to make more information available in state parks about Lyme disease.

There has been a push for years to increase penalties for sexually abusing animals in the state, spurred by the case of a man in Brown County who was repeatedly arrested for molesting a horse. Sexually assaulting an animal had been a misdemeanor in Wisconsin, but the new law creates the crime of bestiality and makes it a felony.

Dubbed the Protecting Animals of Wisconsin, or PAW Act, it makes a first offense punishable by up to 12 ½ years in prison. Sentences would vary depending on the circumstances, such as whether the animal dies or whether a child is present or coerced into sex with an animal. Convicts would have to register as sex offenders.

Evers also signed a bipartisan bill that requires the Department of Natural Resources to include information on Lyme disease in state park brochures and conduct an annual public awareness campaign on the disease every May using digital platforms, the department’s website and magazine, and social media.

The average number of Lyme disease cases in Wisconsin has more than doubled over the last decade. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wisconsin had the fourth-highest number of cases of the tick-borne ailment among the 50 states in 2017, with 1,794.

Evers vetoed a bill that would have allowed organizations to conduct raffles using a paddle-wheel. Evers said he objected to expanding the definition of what constitutes a raffle and said it could infringe on the exclusive rights of Native American tribes that run casinos in the state.

He also vetoed a bill that would have done away with certain disclosure provisions and other requirements that must be met when offering prizes or running sweepstakes in the state. He said he objected to eliminating the consumer protections and would put Wisconsin at odds with neighboring states.

Evers also signed four bipartisan measures designed to combat the misuse of opioids and other drugs and help people who are struggling to recover following an overdose.

One bill requires the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to create and run an overdose treatment program that encourages providers to take a number of steps to help patients, including using peer recovery coaches to encourage individuals to seek treatment following an overdose.

Another bill Evers signed allows county jails to enter into agreements to obtain naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and requires training for guards on how to administer it.

Another measure Evers signed prevents state employees from being disciplined for using or possessing a controlled substance if they are using it under doctor’s orders as part of a treatment plan for dealing with addiction.

A fourth bill Evers signed extends the life of a prescription drug monitoring program that requires pharmacies and health care practitioners to generate records documenting the dispensing of monitored prescription drugs. The program was scheduled to end in April but the new law keeps it operational until April 2025.

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