History: The Enumclaw Ring

The Enumclaw/”Mr. Hands” case marked several “firsts” in a bestiality case. It was the first case of it’s kind where a fatality had directly resulted from a sex act with an animal. It was the first in a long time to directly result in swift, bipartisan political change. It was also the public’s first direct picture of a bestiality “farm”, or “ring”.

The basic gist of what happened: On July 2, 2005, former Boeing engineer Kenneth Pinyan was dropped off at the Community Hospital in Enumclaw, WA. He was found to be suffering from a perforated colon and died in the emergency room. Investigators interviewed friends, family, and the man who had dropped him off at the hospital and came to the conclusion that Pinyan had received his life-ending injury by having sex with a horse. It was determined that he was staying at a farm owned and used by several zoophiles whom he had met over the internet, and that he had sneaked onto a neighboring farm to have sex with a horse there that had caught his fancy.

Pinyan was accompanied onto the neighboring property by two other men – one whose name was never reported(as he was never charged), and one James Michael Tait. Tait not only had a go at the horse himself, but had videotaped the whole encounter. Since the death was accidental, and since Washington had no law against bestiality at that time, Tait was only charged with trespassing. No other charges were filed. There were other people involved as well; the farm was well-known among zoophiles as a sex tourism destination and had received a number of visitors from across the country.

News reports of the time are not clear how involved Tait was in the operations of this farm; one says he was the owner, another says he lived in a trailer on a nearby vacant lot, and still another says that he “helped run” the farm.

We will never know how many others traveled to that farm. The news reports speak of a huge number of tapes, CDs and other media containing bestiality pornography that may have been produced there; mountains of evidence that all had to be returned. The investigation was completely halted once police determined that the legal framework to prosecute what should have been a massive animal abuse case was nonexistent thanks to Washington’s inadequate animal cruelty laws. Bestiality was completely legal in Washington, and the police had determined that there were no detectable physical injuries to the animals involved.

Not all was lost. Thanks to the public outcry that resulted from the case, Washington’s legislature passed a law against bestiality the following year.

The aftermath brought as much weirdness out of the woodwork as it did anger and concern. Some regarded the incident as tragedy; others treated it as farce. After the news of the weird columns had their say, and after the documentary hit, it has firmly dug itself into the back of the American public consciousness, tucked neatly next to some of the more memorable Darwin Awards. Most people didn’t think of this incident as a tragedy or a chilling glimpse of a cruel and disturbing underworld; they thought of it as a punchline.

In the middle of all the ridicule and disgust, the big picture quickly vanished. The implications of the case have largely been ignored, mostly because they’re quite disturbing. For starters, there have to be a dozen rings similar to the one that operated in Enumclaw, spread all over the United States. Occasionally one gets busted, and occasionally there are vague whisperings about one or two, but the fact of the matter is is that most of these groups operate in total secrecy. To our knowledge, nobody – neither animal rights/welfare organizations, nor law enforcement – has had much success sniffing them out.

Even some of the actors in that original drama are still around – James Tait put on an encore performance in Tennessee, and made a special guest appearance in the relatively recent second Spink arrest.

Still, the progress made in the wake of this incident is not to be understated. The media coverage of the incident helped shine a light, however briefly, into a dark crevasse that nobody had previously wanted anything to do with. For many years, animal welfare organizations were slowly becoming aware just how widespread the sexual abuse of animals really was. After the Enumclaw case, people who had never given the issue much thought came to that same realization. They slowly began to understand that bestiality wasn’t merely a sick joke but a real problem, one that would eventually have to be taken seriously. Washington now has the strongest anti-bestiality laws in the nation, and it’s other animal cruelty statutes continue to improve at an encouraging pace.

We can only hope that the rest of the country will someday follow Washington’s example.

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