JEFFERSON CITY - Sexual assault and assault of animals would be a crime -- and birds would get official appreciation -- under bills approved by Missouri's House Thursday.
Lawmakers voted 128-8 to make it a crime to engage in sexual activity with an animal. They also designated March 21 as "Bird Appreciation Day."
"This is the second year we've worked on what should not be a controversial issue," said Rep. Catherine Hanaway, R-Warson Woods, sponsor of the anti-bestiality amendment.
Efforts to ban bestiality, the act of using an animal for sexual gratification, have already shown up in three separate Senate bills this session, including the omnibus crime bill.
Hanaway, obviously uncomfortable with the subject during floor debate, has said her efforts to ban bestiality are in response to the negative publicity that has surrounded Missouri's lack of a prohibition, which has led some to dub it the "Bestiality State."
Lawmakers also added other amendments to the bill.
Rep. Barbara Fraser, D-St. Louis, pushed a plan to increase sanctions imposed on those who steal domestic or agricultural animals, saying she hoped to establish a penalty on par with those imposed for the deliberate transmission of disease to an animal. Current law is tougher on those who steal agricultural animals.
However, some Senators called the provision a waste of time.
"We're talking about animals and piddly provisions here," Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, said. "It's not germane to the bill."
The bill originally dealt with a variety of agricultural and forestry initiatives.
Despite some lighthearted opposition, the House later the statewide "Bird Appreciation Day."
"I have a lot of crows in my area and I just wish they were excluded because they go through my trash," Rep. Melba Curls, D-St. Louis told her colleagues during debate.
Another proposed that bird bill include funding for a new Cardinal's stadium, one of the most hotly contested issues during the legislative session.
Bestiality is prohibited in 24 states. It was a crime in Missouri until 1977, when it was "overlooked" when criminal codes were rewritten.
Although the bird designation will take effect with the governor's signature, the Senate must approve both the bestiality and animal theft provisions before they become law.