What parent wouldn’t want to have their child photographed with a cute little bunny or chick for Easter? Bunnies and chicks are cute. But, most people don’t realize that in order for a photographer to use a live bunny or chick in their shoots, they must have certain permits and licenses. Many photographers don’t realize this either, and unknowingly violate this law. Per the USDA, “Many businesses that buy or sell warmblooded animals, exhibit them to the public, transport them commercially, or use them in experiments or teaching must be licensed or registered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).” This is just from the federal government. Each State and City/Town has their own laws/codes in addition to the federal ones. In recent years, the USDA and PETA have been cracking down on photographers who are using these animals without the proper permits and licenses.
In addition, there are many issues to worry about when working with these animals – including sanitation (children have gotten sick from farm animals and livestock) and bites and scratches from bunnies. Bunnies are very skittish animals, who get frightened easily and will then bite or scratch in self defense. Then there is the danger to the animals from the children. You never know when a child will squeeze an animal too hard. A case in point, a couple of years ago, I took my now 5 year old to the zoo. One of the zoo keepers was doing a live demonstration of a snake. They let the children one by one come up and “touch” the snake. What does my then 3 year old do? She squeezes him! I grabbed her away and the zoo keeper grabbed the snake away. I believe the snake was ok, because we each grabbed them away from each other very quickly. But it could’ve turned disastrous. My daughter had no clue what she did wrong, since she was only 3. Bunnies and chicks have very fragile spines, unlike the snake my daughter grabbed. A toddler or young child could easily crush them.
So, though, pictures with live bunnies and chicks are adorable, shoots involving them could go horribly wrong. And no one wants that! I recommend using fake animals, or making sure that your photographer is licensed, insured and well trained in animal care, before going to a photo shoot with live animals.