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The Emergence of Contemporary Bestiality Law: Applying the Integrative Conflict Model to the Enumclaw Case

Published onNov 01, 2016
The Emergence of Contemporary Bestiality Law: Applying the Integrative Conflict Model to the Enumclaw Case


This article examines the social  construction of  bestiality law  in the United States using the Integrative Conflict Model of law formation. With qualitative findings from a media content study including newspaper articles, a documentary transcript, and a variety of online data sources, it explores the dynamics behind the formation of bestiality law in the state of Washington. The research specifically uses the circumstances surrounding the death of Kenneth Pinyan, and the subsequent Enumclaw horse sex scandal that took place in the summer of 2005, to support  the idea that bestiality law can emerge due to specific factors: structural foundations, perceptions of crime and public demands for punishment, and triggering events. The article concludes with recommendations for future research on law formation processes, such as including technological advancements as an essential structural foundation. It also considers the possibility of adding structural ritualization perspectives to the integrative model.


In the mid-2000s in the northwest United States, a group of friends who connected online would meet at a farm in rural King County for parties. When the friends gathered at the farm around 50 miles south of Seattle, Washington, they would watch movies, engage in conversation, eat, and drink. They also had sex with animals (Devor & Mudede, 2007). One member of the group was Kenneth Pinyan, a Boeing engineer. His story would bring King County, more specifically the town of Enumclaw, into the national spotlight. It would also facilitate the development of a new bestiality law (McGanney, 2007; Mudede, 2015).

On July 1, 2005, Pinyan came to the farm to have sex with a horse he kept there. His preference was to have the animal penetrate him. A regular at the parties stated that Pinyan’s affinity for inserting large objects into himself was nothing strange. He was into the “fisting scene” and “had this large device he liked to keep inside of him because it would wiggle around and remind him internally he had feelings” (Devor & Mudede, 2007, p. 18). Pinyan’s horse refused to participate, so he and two other members of the group, including the owner of the farm James Tait, trespassed onto a neighbor’s farm. There they located an Arabian stallion the group called “Big Dick” (Anderson, 2005). Tait successfully had sex with the horse, but Pinyan did not. When the horse penetrated him, it tore his colon. Air entered his body cavity and created severe pain (Brown & Rasmussen, 2010; Mudede, 2006). Early the next morning, Pinyan announced he needed medical assistance. Tait drove to the emergency room at a community hospital in Enumclaw, dropped off Pinyan, and fled the scene. Medical personnel could not find a pulse and attempts to revive Pinyan failed. He was dead. A security camera recorded Tait’s arrival and his license plate number. Local law enforcement officials quickly linked him to the death and located the farm where the parties occurred (Mudede, 2015; Sullivan, 2005a). The coroner deemed the death accidental, but police focused on Tait. The police found videotapes showing sex acts with animals on his property. Prosecutors sought to charge him for crimes involving bestiality. However, they could only charge him with misdemeanor trespassing because bestiality was legal in the state of Washington (Sullivan, 2005b). With the encouragement of State Senator Pam Roach and animal rights organizations, that would change less than a year after Pinyan’s death. On March 1, 2006, bestiality became a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. New legislation also made it illegal to videotape sex with animals under animal cruelty laws (Sullivan, 2006a).

Two important issues exist. First, there is a growing prevalence of antibestiality legislation in the US, but there is a lack of research related to it (Holoyda & Newman, 2014). Specifically, studies on socio-legal aspects of bestiality are scant (for exceptions see Lowe, 2016; Beirne, 2009). None address law formation processes systematically. Second, popular constructionist perspectives, such as Best’s (1987, 2003, 2006), cannot provide a complete understanding of what led to Washington’s bestiality law. They focus on law formation in terms of powerful claims makers setting agendas through the media. However, with a lack of explicit theoretical framework, they do not adequately consider structural factors or the multitude of overlapping events that trigger new legislation (Best, 2015; Loseke, 2015; Maratea, 2008).

This article addresses these issues with an examination of the social construction of bestiality law using the Integrative Conflict Model  (ICM).  It provides a brief history of bestiality and a review of the ICM. Following    a discussion of methods, it uses findings from a qualitative media content study using newspaper articles, a documentary transcript, and a variety of online sources to explore the dynamics behind the formation of bestiality law in the state of Washington. Adding to prevalent constructionist perspectives, the article uses the circumstances surrounding the Enumclaw case to support the idea that bestiality law can emerge due to specific factors related to structural foundations, public perceptions of crime and demands for punishment, and triggering events. It concludes with recommendations for future research.

A brief review of bestiality

The term bestiality emerged in the English language in the early 1600s. Scholars believe people at the time derived it from the Latin bestialitas, which theologian Thomas Aquinas used centuries earlier when discussing human-animal sex (Beirne, 2009). Bestiality involves intercourse with animals due to opportunity and sexual impulse. For the human, the animal is a legitimate substitute for a sexual partner (Navarro & Tewksbury, 2015). Research does not consistently give precise rates, but classic studies indicate that 5 to 8% of males engage in bestiality, while between 3 to 4% of women do. The average age of first contact is 17, and participants usually have low educational backgrounds (see Hunt, 1974; Kinsey, 1953; Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948). One recent publication notes that up to 55% of people have engaged in some form of sexual behavior with an animal (Navarro & Tewksbury, 2015). Most bestiality involves dogs, with horses being the second most popular option (Beetz, 2004).

Some statistics indicate as many as 40% of people who engage in sex with animals come from rural areas, where the opportunities are  higher due to the farm-based nature of the social context. People from rural areas are also highly influenced by childhood experiences involving sex. For example, children on farms regularly learn about sex by seeing animals have sex. Therefore, they are more susceptible to viewing animals in a sexual way later in life (Hensley, Tallichet, & Dutkiewicz, 2011).

Bestiality has a stronger link to people who suffer the effects of emotional rather than physical abuse, but overall people who engage in bestiality do not have histories of abuse any higher than the general population (Miletski, 2002). Research implies that bestiality cases commonly involve what psychiatrists label sexually violent predators (SVPs). These people have mental or personality disorders and have committed a criminal sexual act against more than one person more than one time. SVPs have an increased risk of committing subsequent sexual offenses, including bestiality (Holoyda & Newman, 2014). One study indicates 10% of juvenile delinquents have participated in bestiality (Duffield, Hassiotis, & Vizard, 1998) and another that looked at three Southern correctional facilities found 14% of inmates had engaged in sex with animals (Hensley & Tallichet, 2005).

Men who engage in bestiality lack confidence with women,  and  sex with animals provides empowerment while avoiding feelings of inadequacy (Beirne, 2000; Ulsperger, 2014). People from religious backgrounds under pressure to restrain from normative sex sometimes justify bestiality as a legitimate alternative, though religious regulations may be just as condemning of intercourse with animals. Some who engage in bestiality consider it a viable alternative to consequences of regular promiscuous sex, such as pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (Beetz & Podberscek, 2005). Interestingly, a majority of self-reported male bestiality involves engaging in acts with animals that are of the same sex, while females who engage in bestiality have a clear preference for the opposite sex (Navarro & Tewksbury, 2015).

With a lack of uniform definitions of sexual offenses in many areas, we should question the compilation of statistics and generalizations related to bestiality. It is also important to note that bestiality is not zoophilia, though scholars often use the terms interchangeably and some controversially see them as the same thing (Navarro & Tewksbury, 2015). Whereas bestiality   is generally “sexual interaction between an animal and human” (Ascione, 2008), zoophilia is specifically a psychological paraphilia of sexual arousal to an object that is not part of standard stimulation. Human-animal copulation is a preference, not a substitute. In other words, participants who have sex with animals do so because they are not interested in sexual contact with other humans. Zoophilia also involves a reported emotional attachment (Beetz & Podberscek, 2005; Peretti & Rowan, 1982). With Enumclaw, group members were engaging in bestiality, but it is beyond the scope of this work to label them zoophiles in any definitive way.

The activities that took place around Enumclaw are nothing new. Carvings from pre-historic times portray humans having sex with animals. Ancient Mesopotamians used dogs to maintain sexual activities for orgies. However, the Code of Hammurabi did call for death for those engaging in unsanctioned bestiality (Ulsperger, 2014). Hittites would put someone to death for having sex with select animals, such as dogs and pigs, but not for sex with cows or horses (Beirne, 2009). Even the Old Testament’s Mosaic laws reference bestiality and punishments for it (New International Version, Lev. 20. 15-16). Persians would engage in sex with animals believing it prevented venereal diseases, while some Arabs believed it had the ability to enlarge your penis (Gregersen, 1983; Krafft-Ebing, 1965). In Egypt, rumors abounded that Cleopatra used trapped bees, with an intense vibrating effect, to stimulate her genitals. In Roman times, men had sex with sheep, while some women kept snakes trained to penetrate their vaginas. In the Middle Ages, the influence of Christian doctrine changed public attitudes by connecting sin and bestiality. By the Renaissance in many European countries, officials regularly prosecuted citizens for bestiality. Townships burned offenders at the stake and soon the stigmatization of bestiality was firmly in place (Ulsperger, 2014). A variety of reasons for the persecution of the act existed at the time. Many believed bestiality went against the natural order of the universe that involved the separation of humans from lesser species, that it violated the procreative intent of intimate relations, and that the conception of monstrous human-animal offspring could occur (Beirne, 2009). Countries in Europe continue to deal with issues revolving around bestiality, whether they involve individual cases of perversion (see BBC, 2015) or animal sex tourism in places like Denmark, where interspecies sex is legal as long as the animal does not suffer (Digens, 2014).

In the United States, the response to bestiality has typically involved harsh disapproval and prosecution (Holoyda & Newman, 2014). The first legal code established by colonists, the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, alluded to animal cruelty. It did not explicitly involve bestiality, but included a vague mention of cruelty followed by a provision to rest tired animals during geographic relocation. Internationally, laws emerging at the same time in Ireland made attaching plowing equipment to a horse’s tail and pulling the wool off live sheep illegal (Beirne, 2009). Cases involving sex with animals instead used Biblical standards for judgment and punishment. Consider the case of Thomas Granger. With it, bestiality panic reached a fever pitch in the colony of Plymouth. In 1642, community members accused the 16-year-old of engaging in sex with a horse, cow, goats, sheep, and a turkey. By order of the court, in line with Old Testament scripture, an executioner killed all of the animals in front of the offender and then killed Granger (Bering, 2013).

In the next century, another infamous case occurred in Europe. It involved a French peasant tried for sex with a donkey. Officials put the peasant to death, but they did not kill the animal. Going against the Biblical principles that led to the death of all creatures involved in the Granger case, officials decided to give the donkey its own separate trial. They found it innocent, concluding Granger raped it (Bering, 2013). The result in the  Enumclaw case was a bit of an in between. A documentary on the scandal implies that   a veterinarian castrated the stallion Pinyan had sex with quickly after law enforcement officials located it (Devor & Mudede, 2007). By the late 1800s, states decriminalized many deviant sexual acts. The cornerstone of this movement involved the increasing focus on psychiatric explanations for human behavior (consider the previous points on SVPs). In other words, if someone engaged in bestiality, it was due to a psychological abnormality and not necessarily rational choice. As a result, the behavior became somewhat tolerated (Beirne, 2009).

There are currently no federal laws on bestiality in the United States. The only historical exception is the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which classified engaging in sex with animals an act of sodomy. However, Congress removed the reference to animals in recent years (Winn, 2011). As we will show in connection with the Enumclaw case, modern statutes often link bestiality to intolerance towards animal abuse. This ultimately leads to those prosecuted for bestiality facing animal cruelty charges. However, many states are vague on the topic (Beirne, 2009). Regardless, at the time Washington passed its law, 33 states out of 50 had legislation in place making some aspect of bestiality illegal. Seven years after the Washington law, the number stood at 35 (Animal Legal Defense Fund, 2012). With laws just passed in states like New Jersey, where Jack Ciattarelli’s intern Katie Schwartzer recommended new legislation after a former police officer was caught having oral sex with calves (Collins, 2014; Friedman, 2014; Racioppi, 2015; Sullivan 2015), the number is now higher. Other states, such as Ohio (Johnson, 2015) and New Hampshire (Blackman, 2016), appear likely to follow soon.

The integrative conflict model of law formation

The Integrative Conflict Model (ICM) emerged from a tendency to explain the origins of criminal law in one of three ways (McGarrell & Castellano, 1991). The first involves law formation based on classic moral functionalist views, which imply a collective consciousness representing the common good leads to new laws (see Durkheim, 1965; Parsons, 1951). The second concerns moral Marxism, which argues laws reflect the interests of elites who want to maintain control (see Chambliss & Seidman, 1971; Quinney, 1973; Sellin, 1938; Taylor, Walton, & Young, 1973; Vold, 1958). The third implies that new laws are the result of conflict between groups of people with various levels of power who have contradictory values (see Hagan, 1980; Scheingold, 1984). The previously mentioned constructionist theory feeds off this explanation while noting that competing groups often make their claims for new legislation through the media to sway public opinions (see, for example, Best, 1987, 2003, 2006). Recognizing the importance of each of these views, the ICM provides a holistic, albeit underutilized, theory that can strengthen our understanding of law formation.

Figure 1 indicates that the ICM operates on three levels: structural foundations, perceptions of crime and demands for punishment, and triggering events. Each level does not take place sequentially. They are interrelated; however, a discussion of them as “three distinct levels” helps when connecting the multitude of factors that promote new laws (McGarrell & Castellano, 1991, p. 175). The current work furthers the model by providing references to points of overlap, but it is beyond its reach to produce a systematic, theoretical reformulation based on all interrelated factors.

Figure 1. Figure adapted from McGarrell and Castellano (1991)

Structural foundations relate to societal and cultural factors, which have the potential to produce alternative views of behavior. Structural-societal factors involve issues such as racial, gender, religious, and urban/rural differences. They also concern economic inequality and political divisions (Galliher & Cross, 1983; McGarrell & Castellano, 1991). Structural-cultural factors involve the populace’s ideas on behavior, whether true or not. For example, what people think they know about a form of deviant behavior, and not what is true about it, is essential (for elaboration, see Williams & McShane, 2014). Cultural factors also connect to the idea that individuals are primarily responsible for deviance and deserve punishment when norms violations occur (McGarrell & Castellano, 1991). As implied by Oreskovich’s (2001) ICM analysis of Minnesota sex offender laws, if the state is not willing to punish, citizens sometimes believe they have the ability to engage in vigilantism and punish on their own. The current research adds to, and elaborates on, structural-cultural factors associated with bestiality law by considering technological shifts and increases in anthropomorphism.

With perceptions of crime and demands for punishment, exposure to an objectionable behavior creates an elevated public awareness (McGarrell & Castellano, 1991). People may not have believed an otherwise overlooked deviant behavior warranted criminal status before, but they change their minds. Here, the symbolism of the law is important, as well as a reliance on constructionist ideas. As compared to traditional models, people do not desire new laws when a certain type of deviant behavior increases. As shown in Hodges and Ulsperger’s (2010) ICM study of satanic panic in the 1980s, people call for new legislation when they merely perceive an increase in deviant activity (see also Joutsen, 1993). Literature that emerged after the introduction of the ICM refers to this as a moral panic (Altheide, 2009; Goode & Ben-Yehuda, 1994). The public consumes emerging stories through, for example, the media. The stories detail issues they did not pay attention to before. Newfound concern elevates hostility and pulls otherwise divergent groups of people together. Subsequently, those groups call for the state to act (for a recent example, see Schildkraut, 2016). ICM literature discusses this as a “legitimation deficit,” and lawmakers are quick to react toward such deficits when they occur, especially if doing so elevates their own political capital (McGarrell & Castellano, 1991, p. 183).

Triggering events produce an intense demand for new policy. This level of the model can be puzzling, since the elevated media coverage just discussed can be a trigger itself. Adding to the confusion, multiple interrelated triggering events can occur simultaneously. In addition to media coverage, triggering events include sensationalized crimes, as shown in Ulsperger’s (2003) ICM analysis of Oklahoma nursing home law. They also relate to significant court decisions and activity involving a “vocal political opportunist” (McGarrell & Castellano, 1991, p. 188). In terms of the latter, constructionists refer to people who stir up moral panics and take the lead in convincing the public they need new laws as “moral entrepreneurs” (Brown, 2014, p. 445). With this stage, whether the public initially considers something morally objectionable is not of the utmost importance. Identifying the people with power who are trying to define the behavior at hand is. They have the ability to take an event, tie it to their boundary-setting motives, and put the lawmaking process in motion (Galliher & Cross, 1983; Jacob, 1984; McGarrell & Castellano, 1991). Reinforcing a previous point of ICM research, agenda-setting behaviors of interest groups can be just as important as the actions of an individual. Consider Becker’s (1999) ICM analysis of Ohio’s earliest hate crime legislation.


Case studies

A case study is an in-depth, multifaceted inquiry that uses qualitative methods. Case studies typically focus on a single person, group, or event (Orum, Feagin, & Sjoberg, 1991). The primary goal of a case study involving any form of media content is to seek patterns in data (Altheide & Schneider, 2013; Stake, 2005). This allows researchers to depict multiple realities that are not easily quantifiable. This is relevant with research on law formation since the essence of understanding it stands in interaction processes not obtainable via statistics (Geis, 1991). Case studies are the leading methodology for studying social problems related to law formation, especially when considering claims making and media coverage. They allow scholars to focus on specific issues related to public perception and provide a foundation for subsequent studies (Best, 2015).

With findings from a media content analysis (Altheide & Schneider, 2013) using the ICM, this study explores the formation of bestiality law in the state of Washington. The researchers used deep and varied sources to explore themes related to structural foundations, perceptions of crime and demands for punishment, and triggering events. It is an intrinsic case study, since it focuses on knowing more about particular people and events. It is also an instrumental case study because it helps to make better sense out of theoretical issues of underlying law formation processes (Hancock & Algozzine, 2006). It is important to note that case studies such as this one have a variety of drawbacks, including a lack of generalizability and the building of interpretations of reality based on limited sources (Altheide & Schneider, 2013; Best 2015). Despite this fact, scholars still believe there is great worth to  the approach if it addresses criminal justice policy analysis (Travis, 2014) or helps to establish systematic, theoretical frameworks with the potential to explain a variety of social problems (Best, 2015).

Content analysis

For this study, we used Washington’s largest daily newspaper, the Seattle Times, as a primary source of data, specifically utilizing its online, archival database. There are several benefits associated with an online database, including the ability to perform quick searches with a large number of materials and reliability through control of human error (Altheide & Schneider, 2013; Deacon, 2007). We drew on all of the content produced about the Enumclaw case from July 2, 2005 (the day Pinyan died) to March 31,  2006  (a few days after the governor’s signature made new legislation effective). Based on previously developed recommendations (Soothill & Grover, 1997), we used carefully constructed search terms, including “Enumclaw,” “horse sex,” “Pam Roach,” “Bill 6417,” “bestiality,” “Pinyan,” and “Tait.” This yielded a collection of 20 news stories, editorials, and letters to the editor. We also used information from other newspapers and magazines discussing the case, which included other local, U.S., and international sources. We located these 14 sources via the EBSCO Information Services database. An Internet search using multiple engines revealed 11 sources, including animal rights organization web pages and other sites, such as and, where an interest in the case existed. Finally, recorded testimony from a public hearing on Washington’s new bestiality legislation and an original, unedited script of a documentary on the Enumclaw incident aided analysis. Overall, the final data set contained 47 sources with 94 pages of information related to the case.


As recommended in content analysis literature (see Berg, 2007), the unit of analysis in this study was any sentence or collection of sentences that referenced aspects of the ICM (n=86). Thirty references (35%) in the data concerned structural foundations. To classify structural foundations, we looked for any references to issues related to societal factors such as race, gender, religion, urban/rural differences, economic inequality, or political divisions. We also looked for salient examples of cultural foundations, including references to the population’s attitudes toward bestiality and comments on who was at fault in the Enumclaw case. Open to emerging themes, we discovered structural foundation trends involving comments related to technology and anthropomorphism. Thirty-two references (37%) involved media-related attention to concerns over bestiality, legal legitimation deficits relating to human-animal relations, and/or calls to establish new laws. Twenty-four references (28%) to triggering events existed. They concerned references to the actual death of Pinyan and comments related to the actions of moral entrepreneurs, such as interest groups and specific politicians. To ensure intercoder reliability, each author reviewed sources and determined which aspect of the ICM applied. The researchers discussed sources related to disagreements in-depth before coming to an agreement on their classification. Following the initial reading of the sources, each researcher reread and recoded to establish consistency. A final reading and coding took place to process emerging themes not initially considered.


Using public documents, the researchers avoided any issues involving the invasion of privacy (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). This did limit our ability to obtain backstage insight related to the case. It also created a somewhat biased study, since we primarily reviewed published materials reflecting media representations. Due to the nature of actions involved in the case, this work has the potential to generate embarrassment, but it does not harm anyone because the information related to people and/or their actions used was already in public domain.

The Enumclaw case and the integrative conflict model

The process of lawmaking involves the influence of more than one event, so gaining an understanding of law formation relates to multiple factors. With the Enumclaw case, this section analyzes those factors with ICM and reviews structural foundations, perceptions of crime and demands for punishment, and triggering events.

Structural foundations

Structural foundations are “overriding social structural and cultural factors that produce crime in society and guide society’s response to crime” (McGarrell & Castellano, 1991, p. 182). This includes structural-societal factors such as racial, gender, religious, urban/rural, economic, and political differences. It also relates to structural-cultural dynamics associated with prominent ideas on forms of behavior, individual responsibility, and beliefs that deviants deserve punishment. Structural-society themes related to religious ideology and political variation with a blend of urban/rural issues, along with cultural factors reflecting attitudes on bestiality, are salient in this research.

In examining this case, it is important to consider structural factors on why Washington did not have a bestiality law previously and what may have led to the new one. Beliefs about bestiality relate to religious ideology (Navarro & Tewksbury, 2015; Ulsperger, 2014). This suggests that religious states have a higher likelihood of having bestiality legislation. However, Washington did not have a bestiality law until after the Enumclaw case. Structurally, this makes sense. Washington has low levels of religiosity. Only 32% of its citizens identify themselves as religious (Huffington Post, 2014). Intriguingly, this minority did attempt to reach out to people like Tait who were associated with the Enumclaw case. He notes in one source, “[After my identity was revealed] I was even getting mostly addressed to me, tracts, religious tracts. People were trying to save our souls” (Devor & Mudede, 2007, p. 13).

Though a base of high religiosity has not traditionally existed in Washington, a foundation of conservative ideology has. Despite moves to legalize marijuana and euthanasia, political identification statistics reveal that many of Washington’s citizens classify themselves as conservative. This suggests that a dominant political base, with leanings  toward  harsh  punishments for traditionally repulsive behavior, would have established bestiality laws years ago. However, when considering political affiliation, geographical divide is important. The southwestern part of the state, including well-populated Seattle, identifies with the Democratic Party. The rest of the state, rural and dominated with farming, identifies as Republican (Webley, 2013). As with recent legal pushes in New Hampshire, it is likely that people of farming communities were not traditionally supportive of bestiality legislation due to restrictions it creates for animal husbandry practices (Blackman, 2016).  It is also possible that many of them just viewed bestiality as a rural way of life. For example, our analysis revealed that a school newspaper in northwest Snohomish County published a piece on farm boys having sex with animals a few years before the Enumclaw incident. Some local residents spoke out against the story, which claimed a fifth of male students engaged in bestiality. In the article, when the writer asked about the appropriateness of the behavior, a student commented, “I don’t believe it is morally wrong” (Stein, 1996). Since Washington passed its law, interestingly it records the highest bestiality rate in the US (Hay, 2014). Regardless, the Enumclaw case seemed to unite people from both sides of a variety of structural fences. Reflecting moral functionalist views (see Durkheim, 1965; Erikson, 1966; Parsons, 1951) some analysts argue that the incident may have been so repulsive to a majority of people in the state, it created a unique situation that brought together Democrats and Republicans along with city and country folks (Brown & Rasmussen, 2010). Many of the newspaper articles in this study reflect this repulsion, even among more liberal, urban journalists (Peiser, 2000).

The Enumclaw case brought to mind stereotypical rural, farm-based activities distant from Seattle journalists’ lives. It created a situation where urban dwellers could take the focus away from Seattle’s reputation as a hotbed for deviant activity and point the finger at depraved, perverted citizens from the country (Brown & Rasmussen, 2010). As Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times (2006) argues in one source, the case had the potential to stigmatize further Seattle’s image, but most people knew the incident took place “out near Enumclaw.” Indeed, Enumclaw could not escape an escalating tainted image, which even had economic ramifications. For example, an anonymous source who attended the animal-sex parties at Tait’s farm states,

Quite a few people were not happy. Some businesses … had advertising in Seattle markets, some businesses [in Seattle] actually pulled their advertising because [Enumclaw’s] name was somewhere in the title … they were so embarrassed the name [Enumclaw] was repeated over and over and over again. And [people] made so many jokes.

The jokes were not limited to the general population. Two years after  Pinyan’s death, journalists were still targeting the town associated with it. For example, our research found an article written by a columnist for the Spokesman-Review on a debate for the location of a proposed treatment center for sex offenders. The source notes a suitable site as “One of the unpopulated windblown islands off the Washington coast, say. Or, better yet, Enumclaw” (Clark, 2007).

Feigning an objective stance, one of the first articles on the event in the Seattle Times relies heavily on anti-bestiality perspectives. It includes information on how to change bestiality laws in the state and includes a quote from an animal-rights activist who argues, “It’s not natural for animals to do this” (Sullivan, 2005b). One Seattle Times journalist notes in another article that while the Enumclaw incident was occurring, “The rest of us were home reading John Irving … foolishly believing that … milking cows … was as perverted as a farm ever gets.” The writer later uses information gathered from a psychiatric nurse to explain the technical nuances of bestiality. In the article the nurse comments, “Maybe it is something teenaged boys try for a lark” (Brodeur, 2005a). Along with the structural bases already discussed, two new foundations related to bestiality law exist with this research. The first concerns an area widely ignored by constructionist-related research on law formation: technology (Best, 2015). The other relates to anthropomorphism.

A minority of people have engaged in bestiality in most societies throughout history (Navarro & Tewksbury, 2015). Until recently, they did not have access to a wide variety of bestiality related pornographic material (Grebowicz, 2010). Moreover, participants did not have the ability to find each other by way of online environments, which have recently created virtual refuges for sexual minorities (Maratea, 2011). Would Washington have passed bestiality legislation the way it did without the existence of the Internet? The Internet brings people with unusual interests together. Specifically, research shows that online, bestiality communities flourish (Miletski, 2002; Williams & Weinberg, 2003). These studies highlight the fact that the Internet is now a critical asset for people interested in sex with animals. As one regular at the Enumclaw socials notes in a source, “All of us are quasi-computer geeks, we had at least that part in common” (Devor & Mudede, 2007, p. 10). In line with classic theories on deviant subcultures (see Blackman, 2014; Cloward & Ohlin, 1960), people who engage in bestiality reject normalized means and goals related to sexual behavior. In doing so, they seek out others with similar means and goals for social support. The easiest way to do this in the contemporary era is through technology, specifically the Internet. According to a sheriff’s sergeant, people in Internet chat rooms viewed the farm as a destination for those wanting to have sex with livestock. Moreover, one of the people involved in the Enumclaw case lived on the east coast. Someone he met online sent him money to move to the area (Devor & Mudede, 2007; Sullivan, 2005a). In Devor and Mudede ‘s (2007, p. 7) documentary on the case, a party attendee anonymously identified as “The Happy Horseman” describes that online bestiality networks create a community:

[It’s] pretty much … our own little small world. No statuses, who was this, who was that. No alphas, omegas, and betas running around anywhere. Just so and so over there … How’s things? Oh yeah, I got to see so and so over here. Talked to them a couple days ago. Other groups, they were part of [our world] in other parts of the US. Somebody would drive down to California. Over to Texas or some other state. Meet up with a few friends down there. Or someplace in New Mexico. Very global world, getting smaller and smaller thanks to the Internet.

Project Wildfire, an Internet site with dubious authority that publishes stories dedicated to exposing the perpetrators in interspecies sexual assault cases such as the one involving Enumclaw, argues that there are dozens of human-animal sex rings operating all over the US. It claims the anonymity of Internet communication allows them to operate under the radar of law enforcement (Leader, 2011). There is not much evidence to back up such claims, but it is relevant to note that in 2010 in Whatcom County, Washington, authorities argued that a convicted cocaine smuggler was running a bestiality farm. An investigation revealed various oddities, including “mice that had their tails cut off … smothered in Vaseline … with retrieval strings tied around them” (Carter, 2014; Hay, 2014; Johnson, 2010).

Anthropomorphism involves the application of human traits to non-human entities, including animals (Dubino, Rashidian, & Smyth, 2014). Since the 1970s in the US, people have been increasingly treating animals, especially pets, as  emotional and intellectual creatures, close to human beings  in terms of such characteristics (Veevers, 1985). This trend is escalating, as represented by people treating their pets like children, spending more money than ever on pet-related products, including clothing and medical services, and sharing previously designated personal space with pets (Boonjakuakul, 2014; Krahn, Tovar, & Miller, 2015). This is taking place at the same time as the current wave of concern over human-animal sex (Hay, 2014).

Some people promote bestiality as an extension of the natural love that people have for animals, especially when both entities get pleasure from    an encounter and no clearly defined cruelty occurs (Dekkers, 2000; Singer, 2001). Some of the animal rights supporters connected to the “rescue” of the horses involved in the Enumclaw case reflect this. In one source, an activist states, “It was a really loving relationship. I don’t yet quite know how I feel about that. I’m right at the edge of being able to understand it” (Devor & Mudede, 2007, p. 21). Consider arguments that draw comparisons between animals and children regarding their inability to provide consent (Beirne, 2009; Boggs, 2010).  Some argue that it is impossible for animals to give consent.  In other words, animals are not just like children and it is wrong to draw comparisons between the two when considering deviant sexual contact. On the other hand, some animal rights activists argue that sex with an animal is an assault since the animal does not have the ability to agree to the action (Brown & Rasmussen, 2010). Many of the sources in this study appear to side with this opinion. For example, Pam Roach, the Republican state senator and Brigham Young University graduate who introduced bestiality legislation following the Enumclaw incident, argued, “It is against the law to harm children; it should be against the law to violate an animal” (Man Accused, 2005; Sullivan, 2005b). It is worth considering that an increase of anthropomorphism could be shaping the general population’s attitude toward animal treatment and helping to facilitate bestiality law in some way. The following subsection elaborates on this point.

Perceptions of crime and demands for punishment

Perceptions of crime and demands for punishment relate to “legitimation deficits created by the state’s apparent inability to reduce fear and concern about crime” (McGarrell & Castellano, 1991, p. 182). As implied previously, people in Washington did not necessarily concern themselves with bestiality as a form of deviance warranting criminal prosecutions. However, after the Enumclaw case, that changed. In the Seattle Times, a Washington resident says, “It certainly is an aberration” (Brodeur, 2005a). In the same publication, King County Prosecutor Daniel Satterberg notes bestiality in Washington is a “real threat to public safety” (Baker, 2006), and in yet another, Pam Roach argues, “People should not treat animals this way (Senate Bill Archives, 2006). Echoing this, a server at a local Enumclaw restaurant told a journalist, “It’s wrong. It’s evil. That’s all I’d hear while serving tables” (Mudede, 2006). However, one key issue with the Enumclaw case was that there was no previously existing law. In the wake of the initial media coverage contributing to negative attitudes regarding bestiality, Washington’s citizens found themselves asking why there was not.

As early as the first Seattle Times article on the case, the lack of laws in Washington for bestiality was clear. That article states, “Deputies don’t believe a crime occurred because bestiality is not illegal in Washington state and the horse was uninjured” (Sullivan, 2005a). In one source, a columnist from the Seattle Times responds with a simple “Are you kidding me?” (Brodeur, 2005a). Prosecutors did their best defending themselves against public demands for stiffer penalties. As one report indicates, King County prosecutors said trespassing was the most severe charge they could file against Tait, who would end up getting a suspended sentence for one year and a $300 fine (Mudede, 2006; Sullivan, 2005c). Other sources in our data set build on our point about anthropomorphism by reflecting ideas on consent and sexual assault. Senator Roach states in one newspaper article, “Animals are innocent. They cannot consent” (LaCorte, 2006). A report on the videos found through the investigation relied heavily on an Enumclaw police officer’s beliefs. In the article, the officer says, “Activities like these are often collateral sexual crimes beyond the animal aspect … investigators want to make sure crimes such as child abuse or forcible rape were not occurring on the property” (Sullivan, 2005b). In another article, a King County deputy prosecutor states, “Studies have shown a strong link between sex with animals and pedophilia … It would be wrong to look at [a new bestiality law] as an animal welfare bill. It’s the kind of conduct that can escalate” (Baker, 2006). Around the time that article appeared, a public hearing on the proposed Bill 6417 occurred. The Seattle Times published an article discussing the hearing that includes quotes from participants. In the source, a representative from the King County Prosecutor’s Office states that sex with animals can lead to “violence to humans” and “96% of juvenile sex offenders started off abusing the family pet.” In that same source, a veterinarian supports a new bestiality law because situations like the Enumclaw case involve a broader issue. She states that viruses such as the bird flu pass through human-animal contact and lead to pandemics (Brodeur, 2006). As Beirne (2009) points out in his in-depth review of bestiality research, there is shaky evidence at best linking human-animal sex as a gateway to subsequent sex crimes involving children, rape, or any other significant threat to the public. Regardless, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s editorial on the scandal made itself clear on the issue. One source states its position with authority (Editorial Board, 2005):

It should be a no-brainer that animal cruelty laws ought to cover sex acts … [Washington’s] animal cruelty laws are gutless. In other words, welcome to Nobrainsville. The legal and regulated hunting of animals in no way grants us a carte blanche on all aspects of animal life. And arguing that animals seem to enjoy the act is a ridiculous and moot point.

Research shows that the proliferation of fear via news reporting clearly exists (for details see Glassner, 2010). Articles from Washington papers were helping to fuel alarm, not because there were so many (perhaps reporting on the case was stigmatizing for the newspaper), but because so many people desiring information were reading the articles on the coverage. A report put out by the Seattle Times indicated that the article titled “Enumclaw-area Animal Sex Case Investigated” was the most-read news story on the publication’s website (Most Read, 2005). After the list of heavily read articles came out, in one source a columnist (Westneat, 2005) states,

As I look back at the year in news, it’s clear I should have focused more on people having sex with horses … [The Enumclaw article] was by far the year’s most read article. What’s more, four more of the year’s 20 most clicked-upon news stories were about the same horse-sex incident. We don’t publish our Web-traffic numbers, but take it from me the total readership on these stories was huge. So much so, a case can be made that the articles on horse sex are the most widely read material this paper has published in its 109 year history.

Perhaps the Internet is a structural foundation that allows deviants to come together, but also one that allows stories drumming up a moral panic  a wider audience. Moreover, though we perceive the people of Washington to have an aversion to the act of bestiality, it appears they do not mind reading or hearing about it. West-coast-based radio talk show host Tom Leykis did not shy away from talking about the case on his show or from fielding calls from concerned people demanding legislative action. Boeing employees reportedly called him stating that federal agents came to their offices and demanded they not talk about the case publically. Leykis subsequently revealed Pinyan’s identity. Rush Limbaugh even gave attention to the scandal and was aghast that Washington did not have a bestiality law (Devor & Mudede, 2007; MacInnis, 2007).

Involvement in the anti-bestiality frenzy was limited. Some citizens even wrote the Seattle Times relaying their disappointment over the elevated concern and calls for a new crime to be on the books. One journalist wrote an article revealing personal shock that some readers did not like her take on the case. Someone sent her an email stating that the police and the press were being “nosy and judgmental.” Another told her she had a “condescending attitude.” The reader’s response did not persuade her, as she ended her article with an attempt at humor related to the Mr. Ed theme song (Brodeur, 2005b). In a more indirect way, a Seattle resident (Scott, 2005) wrote a letter to the editor. In the source, the person states,

Thank God someone finally has the courage to get  to  the real issues instead of the constant debates about nonsense like replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct before it topples and kills citizens. Or our other traffic problems, not to mention the health-care issues we hear about so often. With this long overdue legislation, perhaps now raccoons will feel comfortable roaming our neighborhoods during the daylight hours for our amusement. Animals should not have to feel apprehensive about the possibility of being sexually abused every time they step out.

With a similar tone, after the state legislature approved the new legislation, a citizen (Walters, 2006) wrote a letter to the editor of the Seattle Times:

Hurrah! Our state legislature just passed a law making bestiality a felony … After that Enumclaw fellow misbehaved with a horse last year, I have continued to be suspicious of every horse I see smoking a cigarette, or sheep entering a Planned Parenthood clinic. Now I can go about my day without these concerns.

With the overlapping aspects of the ICM in mind, media attention influenced public perceptions of crime and demands for new bestiality law in Washington. It was surely a triggering event as well. However, in terms of triggers, we limit our discussion here to the death of Pinyan, interest group activities, and political involvement.

Triggering events

Triggering events are actions “that actually lead to passage of a specific piece of legislation” (McGarrell & Castellano, 1991, p. 182). The obvious event with the Enumclaw case involves the “sensational” death of Kenneth Pinyan resulting from anal sex with a horse (Mudede, 2006). This would fall under the umbrella of what the ICM labels a societal “dislocation” (McGarrell & Castellano, 1991, p. 188). The subsequent media coverage, though it shaped perceptions and demands for new legislation, could be a triggering event in and of itself. However, recognizing this possibility, we see media coverage as different, especially since it followed the death. It seems in some ways independent from subsequent attention. In other words, the coverage did not cause the death. The death caused the coverage. As one party attendee (Devor & Mudede, 2007, p. 13) reports in a source,

When it started showing up in the news. Helicopters flying overhead. News reporters being toured down the street … This was one of those very controversial issues for this state. It involved quite a few different agencies. How many places do you know of that actually get CNN news to fly a helicopter over the property just so they can have footage for an accidental death?

Regardless of those issues, it is important to focus on the activities of moral entrepreneurs involved with Bill 6417: reform groups and politicians. The cause and effect dynamic is not so clear here. Sources, specifically newspaper articles, do not clarify whether social activists and politicians sought out coverage independently, or if journalists targeted them in order to expand the information base for reports. Traditional works argue that interest groups do not typically engage in law formation processes since the resources to have an impact are so vast (see, for example, Jacobs, 1983). However, if a chance arises to align with others while only using minimum resources due to excessive media coverage, interest groups will seize the opportunity (see Ulsperger, 2002). Their comments, along with ones provided by politicians, do not just represent an opinion on the case, but reflect a desire to change laws associated with bestiality.

Early in the scandal, the Humane Society of the United States took center stage. In one Seattle Times article, Bob Reder, a regional director in Seattle, implies the case was possibly a good thing for his group. He argues in one document, “This and a few other cases that we have will allow us a platform to talk about sex abuse of animals.” In that same article, Susan Michaels, the co-founder of a local animal rights organization, Pasado’s Safe Haven (a local sanctuary dedicated to animal protection) says that she had been fighting  to make bestiality illegal because it is “animal cruelty behind closed doors” (Sullivan, 2005a). One relative of Pinyan’s even advocated for the new law. The relative said he planned to write a letter to lawmakers (Sullivan, 2006b). Other groups around the state falling under the animal-welfare umbrella supported the bill, including Horses for Hope (a rescue organization for neglected equines), the Washington Farm Bureau (a volunteer-based organization focusing on farm and ranch interests), the Washington State Grange (a farm-based nonprofit group engaged in legislative issues), and state veterinarians. However, Pasado’s Safe Haven led the way. Michaels urged citizens early on to email legislators for new bestiality legislation (Devor & Mudede, 2007; Sullivan, 2005b). In fact, she was also the first to approach State Senator Roach to initiate the legislative process when news of Pinyan’s death broke. The “veteran lawmaker, who owns goats on her family farm” quickly became a backer of the cause (Baker, 2006).

Roach’s political capital certainly increased with her connection to the case. She is the central politician appearing in this study’s data. She has won several elections since the case and currently maintains a position on the state senate despite a scandal of her own. In 2010, the Senate Republican Caucus banned her and recommended anger management related to a pattern of abusive behavior toward staff (Garber & Brunner, 2010). Nevertheless, within weeks of Pinyan’s death, sources show her stating in the Seattle Times, “[Bestiality] is just disgusting” (Sullivan, 2005b). Not long after, a Rolling Stone article quotes her saying, “This is not something a stallion wants to be involved with” (Smith, 2005, p. 90). Backing her desire to pass bestiality legislation, one Seattle Times columnist writes in a source, “Great, let’s get it on the books” (Brodeur, 2005a). Many of the articles on the Enumclaw case mentioned her name in connection with proposed legislation. She followed through on January 12, 2006, introducing a measure that eventually turned into Bill 6417 (Bestiality Crime, 2006). The last paragraph of the bill states the following (Mudede, 2006):

Sexual contact means any contact, however slight, between the sex organ or anus of a person and the sex organ of any animal, or any intrusion, however slight, of any part of the body of the person into the sex organ or anus of an animal, for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal of the person. Evidence of emission of semen is not required to prove sexual contact.

The next month in the public hearing on the bill, she argued that people coming from out of state to have sex in Washington was making it a “Mecca” for “abusing animals.” She did not have to do much convincing. On the day of the hearing, Democratic Senator Adam Kline said, “There is literally no opposition to this bill. Nobody” (Brodeur, 2006). This was not a surprise in terms of political debate, since there was never a group in the state that advocated against the law. The vote passed in the senate 98 to 0 (Mudede, 2006).


On March 24, 2006, Governor Christine Gregoire signed Washington’s first law prohibiting bestiality (Washington Votes, 2014). Around six months after the governor’s signature, the state charged their first citizen. His wife turned him in for having sex with the family pit bull (Sullivan, 2006c). James Tait continues to have problems with the legal system. Four years after the Enumclaw scandal broke, Tennessee charged him with animal cruelty. He and his roommate were having sex with horses (Sullivan, 2009). According to one journalist, people in Enumclaw do not speak of the case anymore. The grass around the barn where a stallion perforated Pinyan’s colon is now brittle and brown, and the sign in front of it, which used to portray the image of a stallion, has white paint covering it (Mudede, 2015).

With the Enumclaw case in mind, the current study provides a qualitative examination of the social construction of bestiality law in the state of Washington using the Integrative Conflict Model (ICM). It shows that a variety of dynamics contribute to contemporary law formation, including structural foundations, perceptions of crime and demands for punishment, and triggering events. We agree with other scholars that more research is needed (Philo & Wilbert, 2000; Navarro & Tewksbury, 2015), but this work helps to fill a gap in literature with limited analysis existing on human-animal sex, specifically in terms of socio-legal issues (Holoyda & Newman, 2014). It also builds on popular constructionist paradigms (see Best, 1987, 2003, 2006) with its exploration of previously examined ICM factors and new ones associated with law formation.

Recent criticisms imply that literature on law formation has an overemphasis on media reports and claims making, and that other factors ex  ist that can help us understand the progression of law making (Best, 2015; Loseke, 2015). McGarrell and Castellano’s (1991) ICM provides a systematic model addressing this issue. We believe scholars underutilize it (for notable exceptions, see Becker, 1999; Hodges & Ulsperger, 2010; Oreskovich, 2001; Ulsperger, 2003)  and have hopes that this research will help to stimulate  its use. There have also been recent critiques implying that more work connecting cases involving social problems and law formation is required (Best 2015). We think future research can use the ICM in a systematic way, to better explain the interplay between its factors, and that such research can help in this area. Future research should also address the ICM in terms of other forms of deviance, and new laws associated with them, to confirm its validity. In addition, future work needs to examine the development of bestiality laws in other contexts, within the US and cross-culturally. With those studies, a focus on technology as a structural foundation, in addition to any other emerging cultural themes such as anthropomorphism, is crucial.

Blending other recent theoretical concepts and models into constructionist and ICM theory has the ability to enhance studies on legislation creation processes as well. Consider the impact of Beirne’s (2009) attempt to create “animal assault” sociology. Structural ritualization theory (SRT) is another example (Knottnerus 1997; Knottnerus et al. 2006). This perspective proposes that taken-for-granted actions shape our cognitive scripts and subsequent behavior without us realizing it. It provides precise categories related to the repetition of everyday rituals, the perceived importance of those rituals, similarity between rituals, and resources necessary to engage in daily rituals. There could be aspects of SRT that relate to ICM. The rituals community members engage in, whether sacred or profane, could give us better insight into structural foundations. The Pinyan case might have turned out differently if it had not happened in a rural area where “horse people” abounded (Mudede, 2006). Demands for legal change or reform group activity as a trigger might be dependent on factors such as collective emotions. Researchers should more deeply assess the public’s shared feelings through rank or dominance of ritualized efforts to change laws (Guan & Knottnerus, 2006).


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Jason S. Ulsperger is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Arkansas Tech University, where he teaches criminal justice courses. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology with an emphasis in Criminology from Oklahoma State University. His current research interests involve law formation, elder abuse, and the criminological dynamics of structural ritualization theory as applicable to crime.

Kristen L. Ulsperger is a Visiting Instructor of Criminal Justice at Arkansas Tech University. She obtained her M.A. in Sociology with a concentration in Criminology from Arkansas State University. Her research interests concern qualitative methods, mass homicide, and illegal internet downloading.

Cole Smith is a Visiting Instructor of Sociology at Arkansas Tech University, where he graduated with degrees in Criminal Justice and Sociology. He also earned his MSW from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In addition to teaching, he works as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.


The authors wish to thank Piers Beirne and Stan Hodges for their feedback on an earlier version of this paper, as well as the reviewers for their recommendations.

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