In this latest installment of our series on animal sidekicks we’re going to discuss the many regulations that affect animals, including leash laws and import restrictions (see here for part one and part two).
I. Leash Laws and the Like
Leash laws vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Many cities and counties (and some states) require animals to be kept on leashes or otherwise controlled when in public, or at least in certain public areas. Sometimes these ordinances are specifically aimed at dogs, but sometimes they are written to apply to all pets or kept animals. See, e.g., St. Louis County Revised Ordinance 611.200. It’s not common in the US, but some cities even require dogs to be muzzled in public.
So what does this mean for a superhero with an animal sidekick? First, it means doing a bit of research before traveling with the sidekick. This is an area where the law can vary substantially from one city or county to the next, and ignorance of the local laws is not a defense. It would be pretty embarrassing for a superhero get busted for not having his or her faithful companion on a leash while out fighting crime.
Second, it means brushing up on the defense of necessity. If violating a leash law allows a superhero and his or her animal sidekick to stop a much worse crime about to be committed by a supervillain, then the defense of necessity may excuse the lesser harm of letting the animal run loose. Necessity is usually based on some kind of reasonableness standard, so the superhero can’t just let the animal run loose all the time on the theory that a crime is bound to be attempted sooner or later. Instead, we recommend investing in some kind of quick-release harness.
Note that many leash laws have exceptions for service animals, but we don’t think many animal sidekicks would meet the criteria for being a service animal. Daredevil briefly had a seeing-eye dog named Deuce, but that’s about it as far as we can recall.
II. Health Regulations
Many animals are also subject to a host of health regulations, particularly vaccination requirements. There are also laws regarding the quarantine and even destruction of diseased animals, but let’s assume that superheroes keep their sidekicks healthy.
The most important requirement is rabies vaccination, although the rules vary from state to state and even within states (e.g., Missouri doesn’t have a state-wide standard but instead directs individual counties to adopt appropriate rules and regulations. Mo. Rev. Stat. 322.090). However, most vaccine laws specify particular types of animals, so they are less of a concern for superheroes with unusual sidekicks. But really this shouldn’t be much of an issue. Making sure Krypto gets his rabies shots might be pointless (assuming a superpowered Krypto), but it’s not a significant burden, either.
III. Restrictions on Importation and Ownership
Now we come to the big one: can these animals be lawfully imported (or moved across state lines) or even privately kept at all? Many states prohibit or restrict private ownership of wild or exotic animals, which are defined differently from state to state: another headache for the superhero on the go.
At the federal level, the Endangered Species Act generally prohibits, among other things, the possession, importation, sale, and taking of endangered species. 16 USC 1538(a)(1). By the way, “‘[t]ake’ is defined … in the broadest possible manner to include every conceivable way in which a person can ‘take’ or attempt to ‘take’ any fish or wildlife.” S.Rep. No. 93-307, at 7 (1973). There are a lot of endangered animal species, and although most of them would probably make pretty bad sidekicks—clams are not known for striking fear into the hearts of evildoers—there are some popular choices on the list, such as the gray & red wolves and several eagles.
So there’s a trade-off here. Having a wild or exotic sidekick avoids some animal regulations, but it subjects the superhero to a new set at the same time. Also remember from part two of this series that wild animal owners are subject to a higher standard when it comes to injuries caused by their animals. On balance, our conclusion is pretty simple: “get a dog.”