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No more Santa costumes or shark fins: Weird US laws come into force


The budget laws that threatened the US with billions in tax hikes weren’t the only ones that were due to come into force in the new year, with some 400 state and local measures ranging from the sensible to (at first glance) the sublimely ridiculous also taking effect on 1 January.

Among the raft of new legislation was a law banning the residents of Wellington, Kansas, from owning more than four cats per household, apparently because of a burgeoning stray-cat problem in the settlement of some 8,000 people.

“Just this year alone, 2012 as of November, we have picked up 231 cats,” Wellington Police Chief Tracy Heath said last month, according to the local Wellington Daily News.

In Kentucky, it is now illegal to release a feral hog into the wild. Over in Illinois, there is now a ban on sex offenders from dressing up as Easter bunnies or Santa during festive celebrations. They are also barred from handing out sweets at Hallowe’en.

Across the US, on the west coast, a new measure in California – where else? – allows the state’s hi-tech mavens to take their self-driving cars for a test spin on public roads, though only if a licensed driver is on hand in the driver’s seat to take control in the event of problems.

Not all the new measures fall under the “oddly enough” category, however. Maryland – which, incidentally, has now banned the use of additives containing arsenic in chicken feed – became the first state south of the  Mason-Dixon line, the historic boundary of the American south, to witness legal same-sex marriages as a new law came into force on 1 January.

Back in Illinois, visitors to strip clubs that serve alcohol must now pay a levy of $3 at the door, with the proceeds meant to raise money for rape-crisis centres. But lovers of shark fin beware: it is now off the menu in the Prairie state, after a new law made it illegal to sell shark fins in Illinois.