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Bestiality is the performance of any sexual act between a human being and an animal. In criminal statutes, bestiality is also committed when a person (1) aids or abets another person’s sexual acts with an animal; (2) permits sexual acts with an animal on any premises that they control; (3) in any way furthers sexual acts with an animal, including observation of such acts; or (4) photographs or films sexual acts with an animal for the purpose of sexual gratification, whether their own or another’s. Some state statutes instead include bestiality under the ambit of a crime against nature or sodomy.

While once a crime under common law, currently all but four U.S. states have criminal statutes against bestiality. These statutes make those convicted of the offense guilty of either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on both the state and the severity of the crime. As of June 2021, only Hawaii, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wyoming did not have laws against bestiality. 

[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]