Magician’s Rabbit Gets Tangled in Government Red Tape

Animals deserve protection just like their human friends, but one well-meaning regulation may have taken things too far

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Marty Hahne

Sometimes a well-intentioned new federal policy has unexpected consequences. Take the new measures enacted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) after Hurricane Sandy, which now require anyone who works with animals to have a clear evacuation plan going forward. After thousands of lab animals died following the disaster, the agency drew up the new laws to help avoid similar crises. One person affected by the policy is magician Marty Hahne, who employs a rabbit in his act. Now Hahne, better known as Marty the Magician, and his rabbit Casey have become unlikely symbols in the fight against unnecessary red tape.

As reported in the Washington Post, Hahne, who is based in Springfield, Missouri, pulls his doleful Netherland dwarf rabbit out of a prop as his show’s grand finale. In order to own an animal for performance, Hahne must have a license. The strings attached to the official USDA license are delineated over 14 pages and include surprise visits to his home, submitting an itinerary to the USDA for extended trips and regular visits to the vet. Now, he also falls under the new USDA regulation for emergency preparedness. Fires, ice storms, floods, loss of air conditioning — he must detail his plan for keeping Casey safe.

Although the new regulations ensure the well-being of animals when they are held in large quantities, such as in the case of lab facilities, some of Hahne’s colleagues are having trouble taking the regulation seriously when it extends to their miniscule-scale performances. One magician quipped to the Post that he planned to deliver a terse plan to the USDA — “‘Note: Take rabbit with you when you leave’ ”. Hahne has obtained professional help to draft the plans.  So far, they’re 28 pages long.

Soon after the Post story was published online Tuesday evening, the USDA announced it would immediately review its requirement for single-animal disaster plans. Though the department claimed it had ordered a review of the regulation earlier in the week, it had been defending the requirement earlier the same day.

Perhaps all it takes to cut down on red tape in the Beltway is a three-pound rabbit and a bit of magic.