Photograph by Joel Sartore, Nat Geo Image Collection
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Mexican free-tailed bats sail through the night sky in Texas. People in that state can kill the animals if they're inside the house or on the roof.

Photograph by Joel Sartore, Nat Geo Image Collection

You Can't Kill Bigfoot in Washington and More Odd Animal Laws

The United States has some pretty peculiar regulations when it comes to wildlife—real or imagined.

Wild animals are pretty good at defending themselves, but humans try to provide them with legal protections, too.

The California-based Animal Legal Defense Fund works to prevent animal abuse and strengthen anti-cruelty laws, but they also have a lighter side, regularly releasing their Top Ten Weirdest Animal Laws on the Books.

The U.S. laws show all the many ways we relate to animals, as pets, property, food, co-workers, friends, and more, says David Rosengard, the fund's staff attorney.

For instance, in Juneau, Alaska, you can't take a dog with you into a beauty salon or barbershop; if you're going hunting in West Virginia, don't be tempted to take along your ferret for help.

Some of these laws are indeed kooky, but others have got horse sense.

Hold Your Horses in Ohio

According to an Ohio law, “no horse owner is allowed to let their stallion mate with a mare anywhere near a public street or alley.”

This might put the squeamish at ease, but it also puts the burden of control on the stallion owner—when in reality, the female initiates copulation, says Sue McDonnell, founding head of the Equine Behavior Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

Mares will go nose-to-nose with a stallion, scenting out his pheromones, then tuck up one foreleg and turn her head back, “the universal quadruped signal for, 'I’m not going anywhere, I’m not going to kick you.'" It's also the stallion’s romantic green light. (Read how horses are conscious.)

By the way, if a stallion tries to mount the mare with a rider on it, things could get quite dangerous, she adds—one reason most police horses are geldings, or neutered males.

Bat on a Hot Tin Texan Roof

In Texas it’s illegal to hunt or kill bats—unless they’re inside or on top of buildings.

That's because people have health and safety concerns about bats, and historically human property interests outstrip animal rights, notes Rosengard.

TIL: If You Like Tequila, You Should Love Bats. Here’s Why.

In general, though, bats don't harm humans—very few bats test positive for rabies. Not to mention they’re free pest control—each bat can eat a few thousand bugs a night. (Related: "Six Bat Myths Busted: Are they Really Blind?")

No Frog Legs For You in California

In California, home to Mark Twain’s famous jumping frog, competitive frogs who die or are killed may “not be eaten or used for any other purpose,” according to state law.

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Mark Twain wrote about the California red-legged frog in his book The Cekebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.

Greg Pauly, curator of herpetology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, says this law is similar to those pertaining to livestock, and is likely “trying to ensure that only healthy animals are consumed.”

California red-legged frogs were both athletes and appetizers of choice in Twain’s day, but hunting and habitat loss has driven down their numbers.

Eventually people realized that bullfrogs are better jumpers—and apparently tastier, as they were “also more likely to end up in the frying pan,” Pauly says.

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The largest of North America's frogs, bullfrogs can grow to lengths of eight inches.

No Sasquatch Slaying in Washington

Skamania County, Washington, considers itself a Bigfoot refuge, and a 1984 ordinance states that killing this “endangered” ape-like creature can get you a year in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

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The Legend of Bigfoot is a roadside attraction near Richardson's Grove State Park in northern California.

Even though Bigfoot is fictional (sorry, cryptozoologists), the defense fund included it on their list because “we feel [it] points to the larger commonalities” between people and other animals, Rosengard says. (Read about a Bigfoot sighting in Yellowstone.)

In other words, we and our wild kin are all sentient creatures that deserve legal protection.

And Yeti’s never called a lawyer. Weird.

Have a question about the weird and wild world? Tweet me or find me on Facebook. Weird Animal Question of the Week answers your questions every Saturday.