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Laws Involving Animals – Real and Mythical

While speaking with friends recently, our conversation turned to our pets. My friends own two guinea pigs and they told me that guinea pig adoption can be a complex process. For example, they stated that in some countries, people are prohibited from owning only one guinea pig. Of course, I had to look into this further.

two guinea pigs on blue blanket

Duchess and Princess. Photo taken by Anna Price. 2021.

Thanks to the In Custodia Legis blog team, the investigation did not take long. A couple years ago, Jenny wrote a post about animal rights laws in Switzerland, which directly answered my question. Swiss law designates guinea pigs as social creatures; under article 13 of Switzerland’s Animal Protection Ordinance (resource in German), social animals must be given adequate social contact with animals of the same species. Although most useful government resources about Swiss guinea pig laws are available only in German, they can be translated fairly easily through an online translation site.

My research then shifted to domestic laws about animal ownership. It turns out that jurisdictions across the United States also have interesting laws on pet owners’ responsibilities. In Juneau, Alaska, pets are prohibited from entering hair salons. If you are hunting in West Virginia, please remember to leave your ferret at home. According to §20-2-5(a)(12) of the West Virginia Code, any attempt to “hunt, catch, take, kill, injure, or pursue a wild animal or wild bird with the use of a ferret” is a misdemeanor.

Although not directly related to domesticated animals, various municipalities in Washington state have enacted laws protecting the creature known as Bigfoot or Sasquatch. Skamania County adopted ordinance 69-01 on April 1, 1969 (April fool’s day) declaring “that any premeditated, wilful and wanton slaying of any such creature shall be deemed a felony,” carrying a punishment up to $10,000 and/or a five-year prison sentence. According to Skamania County’s ordinance list and disposition table, in 1984 the county created a “Sasquatch refuge.” A few miles north, the Whatcom County Council approved a resolution declaring the county a “Sasquatch protection and refuge area” in 1991.

image of sign that reads "please do not feed the sasquatch"

Sasquatch warning sign. Photo taken by Anna Price. 2019.

One major takeaway from my research is that it can be easy to find unsupported statements about strange animal laws throughout the United States. For example, while researching for this post I continually ran across references to a law in Illinois that prohibited giving a dog whiskey or a lit cigar. After looking through Illinois statutes, administrative codes, and various municipal codes, however, I found nothing relevant. Put another way, if you come across a claim about an odd law, it is generally a good idea to spend a little time researching whether that law exists in writing before assuming that the claim is valid.

If you would like to learn more about using online resources to find interesting or quirky laws, please consult one of the Law Library’s many research guides, some of which are listed below:

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