Why sessions with animals aren't such a great idea...

The following was written by a colleague, Marcelle Raphael of Souther Belle Studios, on her blog HERE. This is for all of you out there asking about minis with animals...not such a great idea after all! “Here’s 12 BIG REASONS why I do not offer this service:

  1. The use of a live animals (mammals) in photography requires a license from the federal government’s USDA and most states. These are two different licenses which must be renewed each year. See compliance under Licensing and Registration Under the Animal Welfare Act.
  2. A part of the permitting and licensing process includes an inspection by the federal government’s USDA offices. This is mandatory, even if your state does not require a license or permit. Different states may have different licensing and inspection requirements as well, however the Federal Government can get you into some serious trouble if you fail to obtain your license.
  3. Even if it is just one animal, a license is required. The inspectors may also be required to be present during the photo session. If any animal is hurt, injured or killed, the fines are serious and a they can ban the photographer from actively doing business permanently.
  4. Animals are often brutalized by pulling, choking, squishing, yanking and being sat upon by little clients. This is obviously no fun for the little animal.
  5. Rabbits are delicately structured animals whose spines can snap just from being held improperly and their legs and ears can be broken or severely damaged without much effort at all. Although fowl are not regulated, keep in mind that the legs and wings of chiclets can easily be pulled off and broken by a child who doesn’t know how careful to be. Some rabbits become so stressed they will die of heart failure right on the spot. Having an animal injured or dying during the session doesn’t produce the best childhood expressions to capture.
  6. Animals often panic when handled by children; a frightened rabbit or chiclets can bite and scratch, causing lacerations, deep scratches and puncture wounds to your clients children. These can lead to infections, skin rashes and other diseases.
  7. Bunnies and chiclets carry diseases such as Salmonella, which is devastating to small children. Here is a link regarding Salmonella.
  8. Tularemia or “rabbit fever” is even more dangerous. Here is an additional link to the signs and symptoms of Tularemia.
  9. PETA actively engages in looking for these activities during the year, especially on Facebook. They have successfully (and rightfully) lobbied the largest photography studios like Sears, JCPenney and Olan Mills to stop the use of live animals. And, I promise you, they are on the look out on Facebook for images that photographers post, call and check licensing and WILL file complaints against the photographer. It’s as simple as calling the USDA and asking if a photographer is licensed. I called today, just to remind myself how easy it is to check on a license and file a complaint. You can also report animal cruelty on PETA’s website.
  10. The PPA, Professional Photographers of America, the largest association of photographers in the world, takes a HUGE stand against this. In fact, the use of animals is considered highly NON-PROFESSIONAL as a photographer. I have been a member of the PPA since 2006.
  11. You can be sued for injury, infections, damages that occur to anyone in the session.
  12. The shoot can become quite haphazard if your little clients are chasing bunnies and chiclets. That means you are chasing your client. This, along with the frustration of the child because the animal is not cooperating, the frustration of the parents because the child is not cooperating and the frustration of the photographer because NO ONE is cooperating is not conducive to the best shots ever. Plus, editing out scratches on the face and body parts of your client is an added workload.

In short, while there are legal and health related issues for not using live animals, in general trying to capture the images of so many activities is time consuming and difficult, when it doesn’t have to be.

Usually, you will see beginner or hobbyist photographers in parks around Easter, trying to make an extra buck or increase their portfolio using the “live” animals as bait to get appointments (because no one else is doing it). WHY? Because a professional would rarely use animals with or without a license. In fact, VERY few professional photographers offer this option at all. If they do, it is in a VERY controlled environment and no one is allowed to touch the animals.

Family pets may be incorporated into photographic sessions without a license. But, the pet owner must be the person/people being photographed. There must be an established pet ownership relationship. For example: The photographer may not sell a pet to the client for the length of the session and then have the client sell the animal back. It must TRULY be the pet of the client.

Also, simply completing a “setup” in which the animals are not handled is not in compliance either. A license is required even without anyone handling the animal. Whether it’s relating to photography sessions or not. No animal deserves be to abused, neglected or mistreated, even if accidentally. Please report any animal abuse to your local authorities, local humane society, PETA (report to PETA link), your State Department’s of Agriculture or the USDA. Each locality and state will have different ways of dealing with this. Usually a pretty hefty fine, often in the thousands, and jail time if the abuse is repeated or severe. The USDA can be reached at 919.855.7100 and complaints can be filed at aceast@aphis.usda.gov.

To see if your photographer is licensed according to the Animal Welfare Act, you can go to the USDA – APHIS databank. Marcelle has spoke with the USDA, as of March 8 2013 this data bank is current.”


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