You’ve probably seen them posted on Facebook or mentioned in articles or books: those strange or funny city ordinances or state statutes governing animal behavior or human actions toward animals. Do a Google search for “wacky animal laws” and you’ll run across some of these beauties:
1. Animals in California are not permitted to mate within 500 yards of a church or school.
The California law against animals mating within 500 yards of a school or church was likely intended to prevent children and churchgoers from viewing the public spectacle of sexual shenanigans.
2. In Connecticut, dogs with tattoos must be reported to the authorities.
Those dogs with tattoos? They aren’t punks on paws. Tattoos are a common way of identifying dogs, so reporting tattooed dogs to community shelter authorities could help return them to their owners if they are lost.
3. In Sterling, Colorado, cats may not roam freely unless they are wearing a taillight.
A taillight could certainly help protect cats in the dark from being hit by cars, but we sure wouldn’t want to be the ones attaching the taillights.
4. In one Oklahoma town, dogs may not congregate in groups of three or more on private property unless they have a permit signed by the mayor.
5. Another Oklahoma ordinance forbids making “ugly faces” at dogs.
Some laws may have the intent to protect people rather than pets. Making “ugly faces” at dogs? That could be considered harassment of the animal and might incite some dogs to bite.
6. In International Falls, Minnesota, cats are not permitted to chase dogs up telephone poles.
Not permitting cats to chase dogs up telephone poles? We say if they can do it, more power to them.
7. Barber, North Carolina, takes the phrase “fighting like cats and dogs” seriously. There, the practice is illegal.
One wonders if the North Carolina ordinance came into being at a time when dogfighting and cockfighting were legal. Maybe it was meant to forbid fights featuring dogs against cats. That would certainly have been a bonus for both species.
8-12. Illinois purportedly has several unusual laws pertaining to pets: There, it is illegal to give a dog whiskey, to give a lighted cigar to a dog, to keep a smelly dog, or to take a French Poodle to the opera.
The Illinois sanction against stinky dogs might be part of a regulation spelling out neglect or mistreatment. The state does have some of the nation’s strongest animal protection laws, ranking first for the sixth year in a row in the “best five states for animals,” according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Who thinks up these laws, regulations and ordinances? They sound pretty silly on the surface, but some of them may have originated as a way to protect animals from mistreatment. Giving a dog whiskey or a lighted cigar is definitely detrimental to his health, after all.
And we just don’t know if some of these laws actually exist or if their wording was taken out of context. Try as we might, we weren’t able to track down the actual statutes mentioned here. Popular Chicago radio personality and animal advocate Steve Dale denies that Illinois or Chicago have laws banning smelly dogs or the taking of French Poodles to the opera, but that begs the question: When is the last time he tried to escort a malodorous Miniature Poodle to a performance of La Boheme?