There’s no doubt that people can be weird, and over the years, we’ve needed to create laws to protect us from ourselves and some of our strangest impulses.
But there are laws, especially ones that apply to our pets, that seek to prevent some particularly unrealistic scenarios. Some of these outlandish ordinances have been rooted out, while others remain on the books in their respective states and cities today. All are among the wildest and weirdest things we’ve seen. These are the most unusual animal laws in America:
Law: It is illegal for your dog to bark for more than ten minutes.
It’s annoying just about everywhere, but in Multnomah County, Oregon, it’s actually against the law for your dog to bark and bark and bark. The law states:
“It is unlawful for any person to permit any animal to cause annoyance, alarm or noise disturbance to any person or neighborhood by barking, whining, screeching, howling, braying or other like sounds which may be heard beyond the boundary of the owner’s or keeper’s property under conditions wherein the animal sounds are shown to have occurred either as an episode of continuous noise lasting for a minimum period of ten minutes or repeated episodes of intermittent noise lasting for a minimum period of thirty minutes.”
Law: Dogs may not molest cars.
This one starts out reasonably enough:
“No animal owner shall permit any animal-related nuisance action or condition to exist at any time where it involves animals in his/her temporary or permanent care, custody, control, maintenance or possession.”
But what’s an animal-related nuisance? The ordinance of the city of Fort Thomas lists a lot of stuff you’d expect, including chasing people or other animals, damaging property and excessive noise or odor. But the first item on the ordinance’s list—the firstone—is the “molesting of pedestrians or passing vehicles.” Not sure we’ve seen that one before.
Law: Cats are not allowed in public cemeteries.
The image of a black cat sneaking around a dusky cemetery is a Halloween staple, but in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, that cat—and all other cats, plus dogs—would be breaking the law.
Per the city’s code of ordinances, an exception is made for trained service and assistance dogs, but for those transgressors, the punishment is unknown. Also unknown: How to tell said cats to stay out of said cemeteries.
Law: It is illegal to keep a smelly dog.
Your dog might not like to take baths, but in Galesburg, Illinois, he doesn’t have much of a choice.
According to a city ordinance, “no person shall keep or maintain any animal, poultry or fowl in such a manner to cause inconvenience or disturbance to other persons by reason of noise, odor or other cause.”
The good news: You might not be under arrest if your pup stinks it up. In a 2012 interview, Galesburg Police Chief Dave Christensen said, “We rarely if ever enforce this ordinance other than the occasional chicken complaint.”
Law: It is illegal to photograph rabbits between the months of January and April.
Do you like to take pictures of animals? Of course you do! Unfortunately, for a number of years, the state of Wyoming made it illegal to photograph game animals, including rabbits, without a permit. Even weirder: the law was only upheld for the first few months of every year.
The 1921 rule reads as such: “It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to photograph any of the game animals or birds of this State during the months of January, February, March, and April, except in the manner hereinafter provided in this section.
Any responsible person who shall desire to photograph any of the game animals or birds of this State during the months of January, February, March and April, may up the payment of five ($5.00) dollars to the State Game and Fish Commissioner, and […] receive from said Commissioner, a permit, which said permit shall entitle said person or persons to photograph any of the game animals or birds of this State during said months.”
Thankfully, this one was scrapped, so if you see a rabbit in Wyoming today, snap away.
Law: Animals cannot enter beauty salons for the purpose of hairdressing.
We think lawmakers in Juneau meant for dogs to be barred from getting a haircut in a human salon, not that they’re legally unable to be barbers themselves, but you tell us. Per the city ordinance:
“No owner of any animal or person having control of any animal shall allow such animal to enter into any barber shops or establishments for the practice of hairdressing or beauty culture.”
Law: Black cats must wear bells on Friday the 13th.
The citizens of French Lick Springs were so stricken with triskaidekaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th) that they passed this law in 1939. Three years later, The New York Times wrote about it:
“All black cats in this municipality will wear bells on Friday, the 13th, by municipal decree, as a war measure to alleviate mental strain upon the populace. The practice was introduced on Friday, Oct. 13, 1939, and enforced on all fateful Fridays since, except last year, when a number of minor mishaps occurred.”
No word what happened that year, but in the decades since, it appears as if the cats have won. This law is no longer on the books.
Law: It is illegal to sell a dog’s or cat’s excess hair.
Groomers in the First State better throw excess hair and fur away. If they try something funny with it, they may be in violation of the state’s criminal code:
“A person is guilty of the unlawful trade in dog or cat by-products in the second degree if the person knowingly or recklessly sells, barters or offers for sale or barter, the fur or hair of a domestic dog or cat.”
It appears this law is meant to protect pets from people using their fur to make things (and protect consumers who don’t want cat-fur blankets) but it’s worded in such a way that it makes it sound like fur collecting is a major problem in Delaware, which is pretty weird.
Law: Goldfish may not be given away to entice someone to enter a game of bingo.
A lot of people play bingo for money or fun, but if you know someone who’s taken home a goldfish, know that they weren’t playing in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia. Per its code of ordinances:
“No person in Athens-Clarke County shall give away any live animal, fish, reptile or bird as a prize for, or as an inducement to enter, any contest, game, or other competition, or as an inducement to enter a place of amusement, or offer such animal as an incentive to enter into any business agreement whereby the offer was for the purpose of attracting trade.”
In an interview, County Commissioner Kelly Girtz said the law remains on the books because it’s meant to protect against things like dog fighting, but the interpretation of the law the internet has run with is: no goldfish for bingo winners.