Pet Piercing Will Soon Be Illegal in New York

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At first I hesitated to post this, out of concern that it might prompt people to run out and get their pets pierced while they still can. But then I decided that anybody who would do that probably has either already done it or is unlikely to be the kind of person who reads legal-humor blogs on a daily basis.

Assembly Bill 739 bans the piercing and/or tattooing of any pet if not done for the pet's benefit. The anti-piercing measure states: "No person shall pierce or cause to have pierced a companion animal unless such piercing provides a medical benefit to the companion animal," and a vet must do the piercing. There is an exception for putting ear tags on rabbits and cavies (guinea pigs, mostly), so it's still okay to perforate them to that extent.

Similarly, the bill provides that "No person shall tattoo or cause to have tattooed a companion animal unless such tattoo: (a) is done in conjunction with a medical procedure for the benefit of the companion animal and to indicate that such medical procedure has been done, … or (b) is done for the purpose of identification of the companion animal" in connection with an official "animal tattoo identification registry." (In either case the bill specifically bans tattoos "for design purposes," and I invite suggestions as to what the hell that means.)

I know it's illegal to tattoo fish in Oklahoma City, and while I thought I had done a post on that it turns out I'm remembering it from my book. Which, now that I think about it, seems like it would make a great holiday gift for almost anyone who speaks or even just reads English, especially now that it's just $14 on Amazon, but that's neither here nor there.

According to Reuters, the New York bill was introduced in 2011 by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal after she heard about someone selling "gothic kittens" on the internet, and it "gained steam" after somebody in Brooklyn posted a picture of his dog's tattoo. Rosenthal obviously takes an interest in animal welfare—she has sponsored many animal-related bills, including the also-recently-enacted anti-tiger-selfie bill. (I knew I recognized her name from somewhere.) I objected to that approach on evolutionary grounds and because I generally think people should be able to do whatever stupid thing they want to themselves (or have a tiger do it). Here it is a tougher call because animals of course cannot consent to have themselves pierced or inked for decorative purposes.

In the Brooklyn case, the tattoo was apparently done while the dog was under anesthesia for a medical procedure, and if that's true, then it's hard to see how the tattoo was "cruel." He wouldn't feel it, and once it's on, the dog's not gonna care. (Look at some of the haircuts people inflict on them.) Maybe it should only be a crime if not done under anesthesia? Piercing seems a little different. Minor ones might not be cruel, but I'm not sure where to draw the line and so I'm okay with discouraging pet piercing in general.

Basically, I guess this falls into the category of legislation that might be a little heavy-handed but isn't something I'm going to lose any sleep over.

Governor Cuomo signed the piercing ban on Monday and it takes effect in April. The big-cat-selfie ban takes effect in February, by the way, and I would encourage any gentlemen still interested in that to go and pose while you still can. Or after that, actually.