The United States is known as "the land of the free," and many Americans are proud of the freedoms our country grants. But even though Americans are given the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," there are some perplexing things that citizens can't do in the U.S. At both the national and state levels, here are some weird things that are surprisingly illegal in the United States.
Don't get stuck in the airport customs line trying to bring in any dog or cat fur products, because it's illegal to import, export, sell or transport these products in the U.S. under the Dog and Cat Protection Act. This protects pets from being harmed or killed for their pelts or fur, but it even applies to their excess hair.
Books printed before 1985 are outlawed in the U.S. because the inks, dyes and paints used in the printing may contain traces of lead. Lead poses a serious health risk to children, and it's illegal to sell any products intended for use by children aged 12 or under that contain lead, per the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Many used-book sellers, consignment stores and charity shops like Goodwill will refuse any pre-1985 books for this reason.
In both Massachusetts and New Jersey, it is illegal to manufacture, sell or use an explosive golf ball. Golf balls used to be made with liquid centers that were often caustic and could result in an explosion if the balls were cut open. Manufacturers have since switched to solid-core golf balls, but the law still bans the former dangerous design.
Brass knuckles are made from a piece of metal or hard plastic shaped to fit around the knuckles. These weapons can cause serious damage. States like California, Michigan, Illinois and Vermont prohibit the possession, manufacturing, sale or use of brass knuckles.
Smashing mailboxes or setting off fireworks inside might seem like an old-fashioned teenage prank. However, mailboxes are protected by federal law, and it’s illegal to injure, tear down or destroy any mail receptacle or injure, deface or destroy any mail inside.
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Even though many Americans have Scottish ancestry, the U.S. has banned Scotland's national dish for decades. Haggis is a savory meat pudding made from a sheep's “pluck,” which is chiefly the liver, lungs and heart. The U.S. made it illegal to import traditional haggis in 1971 over concerns about ingesting livestock lungs.
Along with banning an iconic product of Scotland, the U.S. has also banned one of the most famous Cuban exports: cigars. Cuban cigars have been illegal stateside since President John F. Kennedy's embargo of Cuba during the Cold War in 1962. While some trade restrictions have been eased between the countries in recent years and travelers are able to bring back cigars for personal use, it is still illegal to buy and sell Cuban cigars in America.
It's not just Scottish people whose national dish has been the target of American regulation. Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, but the fresh form of the produce is banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with only frozen and canned ackee allowed in the country. That's because unripe portions of the fruit are toxic and can cause vomiting, seizures, comas and even possibly death.
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While it's not a federal crime, in the state of Tennessee, it's technically illegal for individuals to share login credentials with anyone who doesn't live under the same roof. This applies to Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, Spotify and more. The “Tennessee Login Law" was passed in 2011 to prosecute hackers selling off passwords and hasn't actually been used to target anyone using their ex's HBO Go account.
While other confections from the Italian candy brand Kinder are sold in stores around the country, one of the company's signature products cannot be imported and sold: Kinder Surprise. These chocolate egg shells contain plastic capsules with a prize inside. And in the U.S., any food with a "non-nutritive object embedded" inside is deemed a choking hazard under the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. In 2017, a different version of Kinder eggs, the Kinder Joy, was launched in the states with a design that adhered to U.S. regulations.
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Many activities are illegal to do while intoxicated around the country, including driving a car, boat or bike. But certain states have specified a few other "vehicles" that shouldn't be used under the influence. In Colorado, it's illegal to be under the influence and riding a horse while riding on a street used by motor vehicles, while in Iowa — a landlocked state — drunk surfing or water skiing is prohibited. So if you're heading out to surf, skip the bottomless mimosas.
While plenty of types of animal fighting sports like bear wrestling or dog fighting are specifically banned throughout the United States, North Dakota has also nixed kangaroo boxing. Kangaroos naturally use a "boxing"-like punching motion to defend themselves, and humans in Australia and later America began to stage novelty "fights" against humans in the late 19th century. Fighting kangaroos appeared in America at the Chicago World's Fair and Madison Square Garden before falling out of fashion. Today, kangaroo boxing is considered animal cruelty under many state laws, but in North Dakota, it is expressly forbidden.
While cow tipping is an urban legend, "horse tripping" is a real enough problem for 13 different states to ban it. Horse tripping is a rodeo event that some states consider cruel to the animals. According to Oklahoma's Animal Protection Act, it's a misdemeanor to "to cause an animal of the equine species to fall or lose its balance with the use of a wire, pole, stick, rope or other object."
In Massachusetts, it's illegal to be paid to tell fortunes without a license. That includes using tea leaves, coffee grounds, crystal balls, tarot cards, astrology, palmistry and more. Fortune tellers must have lived for at least one year in the city or town where they intend to tell fortunes to apply.
According to Connecticut state law, a pickle must be able to bounce. Well, that's at least one of the tests used to determine whether or not a pickle is legally fit for human consumption. Pickles dropped one foot should bounce, according to the Connecticut Food & Drug Commission.
Even before it was the setting of popular vampire TV show "True Blood," the state of Louisiana had a law on the books banning "ingestion of human or animal blood" as part of a ritualistic act.
Absinthe was banned for almost 100 years in the United States because the Swiss grain alcohol contains the toxic chemical thujone in one of its key ingredients, wormwood. Absinthe with less than 10 parts per million of thujone was legalized in 2007, and most traditional absinthes fall well below this cutoff.
While other varieties of caviar are legal, in 2005, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service banned importing beluga caviar and other beluga products because of the critically endangered status of the beluga sturgeon in the Caspian and Black Seas. The United Nations lifted its ban on exporting beluga caviar in 2007 after the Caspian-bordering countries of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan agreed on fishing quotas, but the U.S. ban remains in place.
"Raw" milk and dairy products, meaning unpasteurized, are commonly consumed in Europe, Asia and Africa. Some European countries even have unpasteurized milk vending machines. But at the federal level in the U.S., the interstate sale or distribution of raw milk is illegal. Consuming raw milk is legal in all 50 states, but only a dozen states allow the sale of raw cow’s milk in stores.
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