Reason 24/7ReasonDid you know that the hoary old magician's stunt of pulling a rabbit out of a hat requires federal licensing and submission to regulations administered by the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service? No, neither did I. But the whole business is governed by Title 9, Chapter I, Subchapter A, Parts 1-4 of the Animal Welfare Act, which governs most commercial handling of animals, down to even trivial arrangements. And among those regulations is a new rule requiring animal handlers, including a magician with his bunny rabbit, "to develop a plan for how they are going to respond to and recover from emergencies most likely to happen to their facility, as well as train their employees on those plans." Which is a lead-in to the odd tale of a magician and his bunny and the detailed and extensive requirements sent their way by federal bureaucrats.

From the Heritage Foundation's Foundry:

With the July 29 compliance deadline looming, the USDA recently sent Marty the Magician (aka Marty Hahne of Springfield, Missouri) an eight-page communiqué detailing requirements for the plan, which must:

  • Identify common emergencies most likely to occur,
  • Outline specific tasks required to be carried out in response to each of the identified emergencies,
  • Identify a chain of command and who (by name or by position title) will be responsible for fulfilling these tasks, and
  • Address how response and recovery will be handled in terms of materials, resources, and training needs.

All of which means that Marty must prepare for all the calamities that could possibly befall Casey the Rabbit while making the rounds of more than 150 performance venues he visits each year, including schools, libraries, churches, and homes.

This rule applies to people and businesses which have some sort of a commercial use for animals, rendering them reliant on the animals' well-being to begin with. That means that these people and businesses are either responsible and forward-thinking enough to take care of their own animals so that they can continue to operate, or else they're sufficiently boneheaded that a requirement to stand and deliver contingency plans to an APHIS inspector upon command is unlikely to preserve their menageries from the apocalypse. APHIS cites Hurricane Katrina (PDF) as an inspiration for the rule, although that's a great example of the failure of the federal government's own planning and the value of reacting dynamically to unanticipated scenarios.

And, for small operators like a magician and his bunny, complying with the intrusive details of the contingency rule is likely to be rather more burdensome than simply stuffing Casey into your jacket, if the shit hits the fan, and running like hell.

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