Monday, January 4, 2010

Turtles at the races

Looney laws about animals

I found a long list of laws about animals here.  I picked at random a few of the "looney laws" to look into--I've quoted them below.
  • "Key West, Florida, has an ordinance prohibiting turtle racing within the city limits.
  • It is illegal to walk your pet alligator down Main Street in Charleston, South Carolina. In Miami, it is against the law to "molest" an alligator. "
  • In Kentucky, "any person who displays, handles, or uses any kind of reptile in connection with any religious service or gathering shall be fined not less than fifty dollars nor more than one hundred dollars."
Are these laws really so looney?  Let's see....
The facts about box turtle racing
Box turtles are a threatened species in parts of the US.  According to Alex Heeb of Chafee, Missouri,...  

"Turtle racing is an event held at county fairs, community festivals, and other events across the United States. For the event, wild caught box turtles... are placed in a circle, with the first turtle to exit the circle being the winner.

An ongoing study was initiated in 2005 to determine how many box turtles are removed from the wild for turtle races, what effect this may be having on populations, and what husbandry techniques are used to care for the turtles. Events holding turtle races were found through phone surveys and internet searches. When available, data on the number of turtles entered in races were recorded. I also attended turtle races and heard accounts from other people who had attended them.

Results showed that turtles were mostly kept in unsanitary conditions that were detrimental to their needs. Turtles are usually not returned to their home ranges and are sometimes released en mass."  Because turtles have a very strong homing instinct, when they are released away from their home area, they may cross many roads in a futile attempt to return home.

"Surveys found over 520 annual turtle races in 35 states. Based on entry data from over 50 races I estimate that over 26,000 box turtles are taken from the wild annually for these events."  "Due to the large number of turtles removed from the wild, these events could adversely affect box turtle populations."  Link.

Don't feed the gators

Gator want a snickers bar?  Nice gator!

"Feeding wildlife is a popular pastime. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, in 2001 Americans spent 2.6 billion dollars on birdseed alone." "Feeding alligators is illegal in Mississippi, as well as most states where alligators reside. The main reason: being bitten by an alligator may literally cost you an arm and a leg or maybe even your life." "Since 1948, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) has documented 341 attacks on humans, of which 15 were fatal. In at least one fatality, the attacking alligator had been hand-fed by humans prior to the attack."

"Many times one neighbor can cause the demise of an alligator that was otherwise co-existing very well. On numerous occasions conservation officers respond to an alligator complaint call to find that everyone in the area was aware of the alligator and actually enjoyed its presence until one individual began to feed it. People report the alligator approached humans and pets as they go near the water's edge, whereas it used to avoid people. As a result, the alligator must be removed and destroyed. "The MDWFP conservation officers, wildlife biologists, and agent trappers relocate 100-200 alligators annually, but an alligator can never be relocated once it has been conditioned to hand-feeding due to obvious concerns of simply relocating a problem."  Source.

Shake a snake for God

"For the past 80 years, believers in the Appalachian hills of the southeastern US have incorporated handling serpents and drinking strychnine (a "salvation cocktail") into their faith and worship practice. Congregations exist mainly in poor coal mining communities, and although serpent handling has been outlawed in all but two southern states, several thousand practicing snake handlers remain to this day. When bitten, believers refuse medical treatment, in accordance with their faith. There have been fewer than 100 confirmed deaths in the history of snake handling." 

Both John and Melinda Brown died from snakebite.  They were survived by their five children, but the children then became the center of a curious and tragic custody battle between the two sets of grandparents.  Source.

"In the decade between 1940 and 1950 six Southern states... banned the practice of snake handling. In each instance, state lawmakers based their legislation on the premise that the First Amendment right to the free practice of religion was superseded by the potential danger to non-participants."  Like the five children....  Source.

Here's.a link defending snake handling.

The more I look, the more it seems that... it's looney people, not looney laws.

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