Regulation

USDA Fines Family $90,000 For Selling Pet Rabbits

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Is this an illegal bunny?

Want to sell a few furry pets to friends and family? Don't let the USDA find out. The Daily Caller reports:

John and Judy Dollarhite began selling rabbit meat by the pound in 2006, and as pets to neighbors and friends in 2008.

Raised on the three-acre lot on which their home sits, the rabbits were heralded by local experts for their quality and kept in pristine condition.

When a local pet store asked them to supply their pet rabbits, the Dollarhites had no idea they would be running afoul of an obscure federal regulation that prohibits selling more than $500 worth of rabbits to a pet store without a license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Under the law, pet stores are exempt from regulation.

But by selling to pet stores for resale, the humble Dollarhites became "wholesale breeders of pet animals," said Dave Sacks, a spokesman for USDA who defended the fine, even while admitting it "looks curious" to the average person.

That's especially so since the Dollarhites face no accusation they mistreated any animals. Instead, they committed what's called in regulatory parlance a "paperwork violation" under the Animal Welfare Act, a 1966 law intended to prevent the abuse of animals.

The result? The family was slapped with a $90,643 fine, apparently part of a recently implemented stepped-up enforcement program that also includes going after magicians who use rabbits in their tricks. Yes, really: Government regulators are spending public money going after magic bunnies. This is why "bureaucrats" is a dirty word.

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68 responses to “USDA Fines Family $90,000 For Selling Pet Rabbits

  1. Animal cruelty sucks and a lot of what goes on in the pet and food animal industries is pretty icky. But animals are property, not little, dumb people, and people should be able to do what they want with their animals, whether I approve or not.

    1. I think animals can be property and yet we can still see that they are different from inanimate property in ways that warrant protection. People should be able to do what they want with their couch, including light it on fire for their amusement, but not so much with animals.

      1. Plus burning sofa’s create’s jobs!

      2. what about tractors? and the pulling of?

    2. I imagine you think cruelty is wrong because it harms a living creature. A society guided by Mill’s ‘harm principle’ can support restrictions on the liberty to harm others, and that other can include living creatures other than humans. Why would it not?

      1. I have no problem with this. Anyone going to step up and defend the ludicrous pricks who think it’s ok to fine a family $90 grand for selling rabbits without the proper permits? PETA?

      2. Probably because our culture and society depend on harming animals and coercing them to do things they’d rather not. Once you put an animal in a cage or a pen you’ve already done something Mill wouldn’t approve of for a human.

        I think you can draw a line between acceptable harm/coercion and wanton cruelty, but it’s not going to be a terribly principled distinction.

        1. Actually it is a principled distinction and can be made easily. Horseback riding is forcing an animal to do something it wouldn’t normally do, but it’s not wanton cruelty, or even close to that. Medical testing is not wanton cruelty, and not realizing the difference between torture/abuse and what you call ‘acceptable harm’ is weak reasoning.

          1. Herve, give me some bright lines that can be used to determine if something is wanton cruelty or not.

            Hunting yes or no? What about farmers who need to cull the barn cats? Cock fights? Bull fights?

            I also think that you are going to find that a lot of animal rights folks are not going to agree with you on the idea that medical testing is not wanton cruelty.

            If it is easy, give us a simple formula for determining what is OK and what is not.

            For the record, I think being cruel to an animal for no reason is repugnant, but I also don’t think anyone should ever be fined or do any jail time for mistreating their own property.

    3. The rabbits are us, Donnie.

    4. Libertarians already quietly accept a category of entity which does not have the full gamut of rights and liberties, but also may not be mistreated in severe ways. I’ll let you guys guess what that category is.

      1. We tolerate Episiarch. That doesn’t mean we accept him.

      2. corporations?

      3. It includes you, though, right?

  2. apparently part of a recently implemented stepped-up enforcement program that also includes going after magicians who use rabbits in their tricks. Yes, really: Government regulators are spending public money going after magic bunnies.

    Will it stop here? No….on to the Cat Jugglers!

  3. federal regulation that prohibits selling more than $500 worth of rabbits to a pet store without a license

    “That’ll be $499 for the rabbits and $2501 for S&H.”

    1. do you pay sales tax on S&H? winners all around!

  4. Don’t you see? This is how we’ll balance the budget. By fining the shit out of anybody dumb/crazy/subversive enough not work for a large government-approved corporation (or the government itself).

  5. Meanwhile, Missouri lawmakers Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Republican Rep. Billy Long have contacted the Dollarhites, saying they’ll help intervene with USDA.

    How about getting off your lazy, self-serving asses and rein in regulators who engage in this thuggery against innocent people on a regular basis and don’t make the news?

  6. In other news, the USDA has purchased a copy of Roger and Me so that they can hunt down and retroactively fine that despicable rabbit malfeasant.

  7. Bullwinkle (as he is led away in handcuffs):

    “But it wasn’t even a rabbit!”

  8. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Republican Rep. Billy Long have contacted the Dollarhites, saying they’ll help intervene with USDA.

    If they make it “worthwhile”.

  9. The constitution does not permit either the creation of the Agriculture Dept. or the Animal Welfare Act of 1966.

    First Principles, First Principles…..

    If the framers had intended to confer Congress with the authority to create the Agriculture Dept, they would have so said. They did not.

    1. Dude! As much as it pains me to say it…that ship has sailed!

      1. watch me pull a rabbit out of my ass…now that’s abuse and not just for the rabbit.

        1. Do you have a permit for that?

    2. Our government is not based upon principles. That would mean rule of law.

      No, our government is based upon principals.

      1. Dude: before I die, we need to party.

      2. High school principals? Those guys are the worst.

    3. I imagine the AWA claims authority under the Commerce Clause (pets are interstate commerce) and the spending power (a lot of the bill has to do with regulating how federally funded researchers procure and treat the animals they use in research). It’s also meant to address the problem of inter-state pet thefts (stealing pets and selling them to researchers and such).

      The fine strikes me as incredibly excessive. I’d like the see the 8th Amendment invoked on such a heavy fine.

      1. I’d also like to point out how heavy-handed the USDA is being according to this story. They admit the regulation is obscure and curious, they know the people in question are not some kind of professional breeders who can be assumed to be up on such regulations and it certainly seems they wandered afoul of this obscure law out of ignorance rather than a bad intent. Why in the world would they not just issue a warning letter?

        1. Because they don’t have to. They have the power. They might issue a warning letter, if they felt like it, but depending on the individual kindness of bureaucrats is a losing game. They must be restrained by rules.

          It’s made even worse when you’re part of a huge organization like the government. It’s difficult for people to express their disapproval. It’s not like anybody is going to vote differently on the basis of this. What are they going to do, patronize some other licensing agency or government?

          1. “They must be restrained by rules.”

            Even then if rules aren’t enforced then they might as well not exist.

        2. These sorts of heavy-handed outrageous excesses are as inevitable as outrageous excesses by the police, by the TSA, or anything else. You either have to accept them as inevitable, or work to limit the powers by law and rule, not rely on the kindness of individual bureaucrats.

          1. Such reliance, almost always, proves to be, detrimental.

        3. Why didn’t they just issue a warning letter? Because the Feds want to send people like Reason readers a message. The same sort of message that the IRS sends around tax time when it has a high profile tax evasion conviction.

          Why did the Feds accuse Bernard notHaus of “terrorism”, sentence him to prison for the rest of his life, and seize all his property for the crime of selling silver coins?

          Because they could, and because the Feds want independent-minded people to fear their power if they won’t respect their authority.

          1. the Dollarhites called a USDA office in Maryland. A man there said, “We’re going to make an example of you”

            The message doesn’t get any clearer than this.

            Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/05…..z1NUxrnT3r

      2. So aside from the usual “everything is interstate commerce” justification, you’re saying that because other parts of the bill had some constitutional justification, this part gains constitutional justification by osmosis or something.

  10. That’s especially so since the Dollarhites face no accusation they mistreated any animals. Instead, they committed what’s called in regulatory parlance a “paperwork violation” under the Animal Welfare Act, a 1966 law intended to prevent the abuse of animals.

    90K for “contempt of bureaucracy.” It’s a good thing to know that a law intended to curb the abuse of animals is being used against people who haven’t committed any animal abuse. But the intent was good, who cares about outcomes?

    Kafka wanted his all his writing burned after his death. Probably afraid of being the next Nostradamus.

    1. Prevents animal abuse by abusing people who don’t abuse animals?

      1. Let that be a warning to you. Think about what we would do to people who actually abuse animals. Or, more likely, the next person who dares engage in any sort of voluntary transaction without paying our protection fee.

    2. I suspect it’s a catch-all provision to prevent circumvention of the regulation by withholding information. Sort of like it’s illegal to not file an income tax return even if you don’t owe any taxes.

  11. What’s the point of having all this beautifully polished machinery of oppression if you never take it out of the garage and grind up some peasants with it?

    1. You’re right. The levers of such machinery should not be allowed to get lazy; they need to be exercised.

    2. How could I sell any Machine of Oppression Cleaning Kits otherwise?

      Jobs created or saved, baby!

    3. the tree of liberty needs to be periodically watered with…ground-up peasant goo

      1. Soylent liberty is peasants! Soylent liberty is peasants!

  12. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. Maybe the pet store should have mentioned this detail about needing a possible license. Sounds like they knew they didn’t need one.

    1. It’s quite possible everyone involved was completely unaware of the regulation.

  13. It’s hard to have sympathy for someone who doesn’t bother reading the laws to which they are subject as US citizens. If you don’t take the time to carefully study and digest the entire US Code and the corpus of Federal regulations going back to the 1910s, it’s your own fault when something like this happens.

    1. Ignorance of the law is no excuse unless your job is to enforce it.

  14. The USDA regulations are there to protect the public. Every rabbit is a potential Rabbit of Caerbannog.

    1. Shut up and go change your armor.

    2. +10 exp
      +2 charisma

  15. If you don’t take the time to carefully study and digest the entire US Code and the corpus of Federal regulations going back to the 1910s, it’s your own fault when something like this happens.

    They should read them to us on the telescreens all night; sort of an audiobook sleep learning program.

    1. Or even better while we’re still being rotated in our growing vats. 24 times per day, six days per week, ages one month to 10 years.

  16. I was so busy trying to read the entire US code that I didn’t have time to read the article.

    How many rabbits did the swat team have to euthanize after raiding the farm in order to protect the rabbits from cruelty?

  17. Yes, really: Government regulators are spending public money going after magic bunnies.

    If they are pulling in $90,000 its a profitable use of the governments monopoly on force.

  18. hey, the family should consider themselves lucky that they didn’t get raided by a swat team. Y’know, in case the bunnies decided to get aggressive.

    1. I call strawman. The issue at play was not the agression of the bunnies but that the family had a known history of eating their bunnies. Since the bunnies were evidence in an ongoing investigation, this should have raised concerns that they were destroying evidence. Thus not only should SWAT have been called but any subsequent raid was constitutional even with the lack of a warrant or any further evidence of wrong doing.

  19. Yes, really: Government regulators are spending public money going after magic bunnies. This is why “bureaucrats” is a dirty word.

    Those bunnies should, what, form a union and withhold the means of production from the magicians? Vote for a pro-bunny candidate? Government should get out and let the bunnies self-regulate? It’s an at-will voluntary work situation and they should quit and get another job if they don’t like being a stage prop?

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think stage bunnies are being tortured–but that’s not the worst example we could possibly come up with by any stretch of the imagination. Let’s pretend that someone had made a bunny-launching catapult and website. Is that impossible to believe?

    I know in the case where there’s a commercial aspect involved, I understand the theoretical solution is to let the market determine if it’s okay to have dog-fighting rings or bear-baiting or exploding dolphin shows or kangaroo fight club or sheep whorehouses or whatever you can dream up.

    The problem is, it’s so cheap to raise certain animals, it’s almost impossible to make it cost-prohibitive. If I want to raise a given animal, torture it, then eat it (and skin it, etc.)–chances are it paid for itself. [Even more so, depending on how much I value my torture/entertainment.]

    I’m an anarchist, but this is one of the things I have the most trouble rationalizing:
    How would an animal (or the environment in general) be protected in a stateless society?
    Would I have standing to take my neighbor (or whoever) to a private court over his mistreatment of an animal he owns and I don’t? That’s pretty hard to rationalize in a world where property rights are 10/10ths of the law.

    1. Again, I don’t think being a magician’s bunny is a bad gig, at all.

      And I don’t want the fucking SWAT staging no-knock raids on the Dollarhite household. In fact, I really don’t want the government doing anything.

      What I’m asking, in an earnest political-philosophical dialog, is that if the state doesn’t protect animals from torture, who will? Especially animals which are not subject to the invisible hand, i.e., pets or “personal use” animals.

      I can’t imagine that anyone is going to argue that they can protect themselves, which is the standard (and essentially correct) argument when it comes to humans.

      1. Who will? Eco-terrorists that’s who.

  20. But you promised I’d get to tend to the rabbits, George!

  21. WHAT is it going to take to defang government thugs? They seem immune to reason.

  22. This may seem ludicrous, but thank God someone finally cares enough to uphold animal cruelty laws. Honestly, as silly as it seems, it’s a step in the right direction. And, I honestly doubt these people will be required to actually pay. But some fine, for the exploitation of these animals, would be fair.

  23. USDA had done a good move by bringing up the fine to keep thing back inline.
    http://www.marshallspetzone.com/

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