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Photo of Matt M. McClenahen
Photo of Matt M. McClenahen

Pennsylvania Man Charged with Miniature Horse Molestation


A 21 year-old, Pennsylvania man has been charged with a non-residential burglary and sexual intercourse with an animal following an August 16, 2016, incident in Lancaster County. Ephrata Police allege that Travis Wagner entered a barn with the intent of committing a crime therein. Usually, theft is the crime intended to be committed when a person unlawfully enters a building and is charged with burglary. But in this case, the only thing allegedly stolen was the poor miniature horse’s dignity and innocence.

The police allege that a witness saw a suspicious man enter a barn and then leave a short time later. Armed with a description of the vehicle and the license plate, the police were able to track down Wagner, who then allegedly admitted to entering the barn to have sex with a miniature horse. This confession is a classic example of why most suspects should keep their mouths shut when interrogated by police without a lawyer present!

Strangely enough, sexual intercourse with an animal is only a second degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania, punishable by a maximum penalty of one to two years of incarceration and a $5,000 fine. Most people convicted of a second degree misdemeanor can expect probation if they have no prior record. By contrast, burglary of the barn at a time when no person is present is a second degree felony punishable by a maximum penalty of five to ten years of incarceration and a $25,000 fine. A defendant with no prior record could usually expect a sentence of probation or county jail followed by a period of parole, if convicted of this type of burglary.

Some may be surprised to learn that sex with an animal is not a SORNA offense in Pennsylvania, meaning that a person convicted of this offense does not have to register as a sex offender. SORNA stands for “Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act,” and it replaced the older Megan’s Law. Like Megan’s Law, SORNA determines which offenses require one to register as a sex offender and for how long. For whatever reason, the drafters of SORNA did not deem sex with an animal to be as bad as a 19 year old high-school janitor having sex with an 18 year-old student. The 19-year old janitor in this scenario would be required to register as a sex offender for 25 years if convicted of institutional sexual assault!

Pennsylvania has a long history of absurd laws surrounding sex. In fact, this is the state, which once accidentally legalized bestiality for a period of time. You can read about it in this blog post:

Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, Pennsylvania.

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