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Pigeons and Squirrels and Rats, Oh My!

My Pacific Legal Foundation colleague, Tim Sandefur, argued before the Ninth Circuit yesterday in an economic liberty case challenging California's occupational licensing scheme for animal pest control operators who shun pesticides. As he explains

Alan Merrifield doesn't believe in pesticides. He thinks they're dangerous, ineffective and bad for the environment. In any case, he doesn't deal with bugs. He helps people keep common pests like raccoons and birds away from their homes, using only traps, screens and spikes.

Nonetheless, state bureaucrats insist that the 68-year-old Merrifield - who already holds five state pest control licenses - needs another license, called a "Branch 2 License," before he can install spikes on buildings to keep pigeons away. To get such a license, one must spend two years learning how to handle pesticides - pesticides Merrifield doesn't use - and then take a 200-question multiple-choice examination - which does not contain a single question about spikes or pigeons.

It gets worse. The law only applies to people who work on pigeon, mouse or rat problems. In other words, someone who installs spikes on a bridge to keep seagulls from roosting there doesn't need a Branch 2 License. But install the same spikes on the same bridge to keep pigeons away, and you do. The penalties can amount to fines of $1,000 per violation and even jail time.

Read the whole thing here and listen to the oral argument here.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.