Advocates for Animals

Making full use of the law to protect animals

Blog: Curious and Unusual Animal Laws


In the ever-glamorous world of property law, I am used to reading archaic covenants in leases such as: ‘The playing of musical instruments and the entertainment of livestock is not permitted after the hour of ten o’clock in the evening’. Such clauses conjure up delightful images of goats, pigs and sheep raving until the early hours of the morning, causing insomniac neighbours to beat desperately on the walls. When it comes to property, city dwellers in particular need to take care, as under The Town Police Clauses Act 1987, Londoners are not allowed to keep a pigsty in front of their homes, unless it is ‘duly hidden’. There are many curious and unusual laws relating to animals all around the world. Here are a few of them:

Under The Licensing Act 1872, ‘Every person who is drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any carriage, horse, cattle, or steam engine, shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding forty shillings,’ so, if you're going to the pub, be sure to leave your bovine pals at home! Alternatively, you may wish to drive cows down the motorway, (in a convertible perhaps?) but be warned, under The Metropolitan Streets Act of 1867, ‘No cows may be driven down the motorway between the hours of 10am and 7pm unless there is prior approval from the commissioner of police’. I wonder how many such requests Cressida Dick receives every year?

In the USA, under the New York City Health Code, it is illegal to keep a tiger or cobra as a pet, whereas in the UK you will be relieved to know it is perfectly legal to keep a hissing cockroach, (happiest in a colony of several), a Widow Spider, or, if insects aren’t for you, a crocodile or an alligator. Though if the animal is deemed dangerous, you will need to apply for a licence under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.

In Switzerland, under the Animal Rights Code, it is illegal to keep only one goldfish. However, the code is silent on the matter of an upper limit as long as there is an adequate amount of water per fish. So, presumably, you could play host to thousands of goldfish as long as you had a big enough tank or pond. I like the reasoning behind this one though as it prevents animals from becoming lonely and isolated.

In Germany, under European regulations, if you want to keep a dog as a pet, you must pay a ‘Hundesteuer’ or dog tax. But be careful, don’t try to avoid this tax by pretending your dog is a sheep! According to German broadcaster, Deutch Welle, this happened to a man from Rostock in 2017. The man successfully passed his dog off as a sheep for many years in order to avoid paying tax. The dog was actually a Spanish water dog (to be fair, I can see the resemblance). A vet had to be called in by the police to examine the ‘sheep’ and declared it a dog. The reluctant taxpayer faced a hefty fine.

Finally, though it is a popularly held belief that there is a French law forbidding the naming of any pet pig ‘Napoleon’ I have read all through the Napoleonic Code in detail (not really, I lie – I pressed control and F and typed in ‘pig’) but couldn’t find any mention of this one. And, as for the one about it being illegal in Alaska to push a moose out of a plane, this could well be an urban myth as I could not find any statute to confirm this law exists either. But don’t worry, if I ever find myself sitting next to a moose on a plane flying over Alaska, I will make sure he has a parachute!

Anne-Marie Norman
Legal Advisor
Independent Contributor


We are grateful to everyone who contributes to the Advocates for Animals blog. Blogs should not be taken as legal advice nor do they necessarily reflect the views of the firm

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