In perhaps the worst example of federal red tape, a Missouri-based magician claims the U.S. Department of Agriculture is demanding that he submit a written disaster plan detailing how he would care for his rabbit in the event of a tornado, fire, flood, or some other catastrophe.
Marty Hahne, 54, of Ozark, Mo., has been a magician for 27 years, performing on cruises and at his local library. His big finale is to pull his rabbit Casey out of a hat. But apparently even kids' magicians are subject to the convoluted laws mandated by the USDA.
It started in 2005 when a USDA inspector showed up at one of his shows and demanded to see his license.
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"She said, 'Show me your license.' And I said, 'License for...?'" Hahne recounted to the Washington Post.
"She said, 'For your rabbit.'"
He got one after learning it was commonplace for people who "exhibit" animals to have licenses. The rule originated from a 1965 case involving a laboratory that tortured and killed a dognapped Dalmatian, but has since been twisted and applied to even small-town magicians who use a single rabbit in their acts.
"Our country's broke," Hahne told the Washington Post. "And yet they have money and time to harass somebody about a rabbit."
Now, the USDA's reach is extending even more and requiring all animal exhibitors to submit written disaster plans. Unless the animals are cold-blooded. Or raised for meat. Those are the exceptions.
"You're telling me I can kill the rabbit right in front of you," Hahne says, "but I can’t take it across the street to the birthday party [without a license or disaster plan]?"
Hahne has until the end of the month to submit his plan for Casey should a disaster strike.
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After Hahne spoke out about the rabbit disaster plan he must submit, the USDA announced its plans to review the rule, though it gave no set time frame or details.
"Secretary [Tom] Vilsack asked that this be reviewed immediately and common sense be applied," department spokeswoman Courtney Rowe told the Post in an e-mail message.
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