During a July 2005 sex act, videotaped by a friend, he suffered a perforated colon and later died of his injuries. The story was reported in the The Seattle Times and was one of that paper's most read stories of 2005. It was informally referred to as the "Enumclaw horse sex case".
Pinyan's death prompted the passing of a bill in Washington State prohibiting both sex with animals and the videotaping of the same. Under current Washington law, bestiality is now a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
A documentary of the life and death of Pinyan, and the life led by those who came to the farm near Enumclaw, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival 2007 under the title Zoo. It was one of 16 winners out of 856 candidates for the festival, and played at numerous regional festivals in the United States thereafter. Following Sundance, it was also selected as one of the top five American films to be presented at the prestigious Directors Fortnight sidebar at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
The media outlets that reported the story withheld Pinyan's name. His name was revealed on national radio by talk show host Tom Leykis in the summer of 2005.
Prosecutors later determined that the horse, an Arabian stallion, had not been injured by being allowed to engage in sex in this manner. The photographer, 54-year old James Michael Tait of Enumclaw, was later charged with trespassing, since this act took place on a third party's property. A third man alleged to have been present was not charged. According to the Medical Examiner's Office, Pinyan "died of acute peritonitis due to perforation of the colon", and the death was ruled accidental.
Other factors surrounding the death were apparently that the deceased, concerned about appearing in a hospital with an unusual internal injury and the effect on his security clearance as an engineer for aerospace company Boeing, had apparently refused his friends' urging to go to the hospital for several hours after being aware he was internally injured, and was either beyond treatment or dead when he finally reached the ER.
Media reports at the time of the trial suggested that despite seizing and examining carefully a large number of such videos from the property, no evidence of injury to the horses was found, precluding animal cruelty charges, and that the trespass charge against Tait were brought due to lack of grounds for any other matter: