We’ve all marveled at the seemingly bizarre and outrageous laws that crop up as trivia – and perhaps no country is better at passing these laws (or more likely, simply never having cause to act on or repeal them) than the good old US of A. Did you know, for example, that it’s illegal to chain an alligator to a fire hydrant in Michigan? Sometimes the origin of these laws has been lost, and sometimes -let’s be honest- we twist them a little for our own amusement too. But here are some of our favorite strange laws from around the world, and the sometimes startlingly logical reasoning behind them!
Often, the example quoted is actually part of a broader law, but naming a specific example makes the law sound a lot quirkier than it is. Here’s a perfect example:
In Switzerland, it is illegal to Own Only One Goldfish
This is true, but it’s also illegal to keep many social animals in isolation – such as budgies and guinea pigs. This law is actually a shining example of animal anticruelty legislation, where keeping highly gregarious creatures separate from their peers is considered inhumane isolation. It’s also compulsory for dog owners to take a training course before they’re allowed to adopt one, and personally, we think the rest of the world should take a leaf out of Switzerland’s legal book on this one!
In Florida, if an elephant is tied to a parking meter, you need to pay the charge just as for a vehicle
This example also takes a broader law and makes it more specific – the same legality would apply to any form of transportation, whether it’s a caravan, tank, camel or a horse. It’s thought that this law came into being when the Ringling Brothers Circus was in town in the 1920s!
It’s illegal to wear a bike helmet indoors in Brazil
This law sounds particularly whacky until you discover the reasoning behind it! Like the infamous balaclava, a full helmet disguises an individual’s face – and they were actually used in a spate of armed robberies committed by bikers, which was why the law was originally passed. Forcing people to take these helmets off before they enter a public or private building means they can be more easily identified on security footage should they commit a crime, and of course, making a quick getaway when you’re already wearing your helmet is not something you want to encourage either. It may sound a bit weird, but this law makes sense under the circumstances.
It’s illegal to sell or use chewing gum in Singapore
Lots of authorities have an issue with chewing gum, but banning it in an entire country sounds a little like overkill! Although the government of Singapore was trying to get the sticky stuff banned since 1983, it was in 1987, when vandals where using chewed gum to interfere with the door sensors of the Mass Rapid Transit rail system that it started getting pushed through into actual legislation. A complete ban, excepting therapeutic gum products like nicotine gum to help people quit smoking, was finally enforced in 1992, and stands to this day.
In Louisiana, you can be fined $500 for sending a surprise pizza to a friend’s house
Most of us would be pretty excited to receive an unsolicited pizza from a friend, but like many weird laws, the public has used their creative license on this one a bit. The law doesn’t just apply to pizza, but to ordering any good or service for someone without their knowledge or consent.
It’s illegal to be fat in Japan
In 2008, the Japanese authorities implemented a waist size rule for both men and women between the ages of 40 and 74. Those who don’t comply with the requirements get fined. Now there’s your motivation to eat your veggies and avoid fast food!
Get your own weird law passed!
Sometimes what popular culture calls a ‘law’ is actually just a ruling from a specific case that gets used as a handy example for law students. This means that if you really wanted to, you could have your own whacky law circulating the interwebs. Say, for example, your neighbor happens to have a pet tarantula which is visible from your kitchen window. On several occasions, the sight of the creature has upset your children. You could approach a boutique law firm to make a case against your neighbor that forces them to keep the arachnid out of sight. If you win, it probably won’t be long before it’s circulating the web (no pun intended) that it’s illegal to display tarantulas in your state!