The law is an ass perhaps, when it comes to dyeing ducklings

United States: You can't dye rabbits in Prince George's County, Maryland, play football on the streets of the District of Columbia…

United States: You can't dye rabbits in Prince George's County, Maryland, play football on the streets of the District of Columbia or cheat on your spouse in Virginia.

It's against the law.

In Maryland, watch your tongue in Rockville: cursing is punishable by a fine or 90 days in jail or both. Whistling - loud enough for someone 50 feet away to hear it - is unlawful in Greenbelt, between 9pm and 7am.

And leave your cow at home when passing through Bowie; it's illegal to lead or ride one on the pavement.


Legislation is usually humourless stuff, but time does funny things to laws.

High heels are banned in Carmel, California, unless you get a permit to wear them. It is a misdemeanour to call to an animal at the zoo in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

An ordinance in Prince George's County, Maryland, prohibits anyone from operating a bowling alley on Sundays from 2pm to midnight, one of a handful of "blue laws" upholding Sunday observance still on the books in the region. Offenders risk a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.

Another county ordinance makes it illegal to dye or change the natural colour of ducklings, chicks and rabbits.

In Virginia, you can't frequent a pool room in Vienna if you're under 18. It's against the law in Norfolk to trick-or-treat after 8pm or to do it if you are older than 12. Violations are class four misdemeanours, punishable by a fine of up to $250.

Fairfax County ordinances prohibit certain behaviour on public transportation, such as using pogo sticks. "This is a most effective ordinance," county spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald said of the 1975 law. "When was the last time you saw a pogo stick on the bus?"

And it's a misdemeanour under Virginia law to have premarital sex or commit adultery.

In DC it is unlawful to "set up or fly any fire balloon or parachute", according to the city law book. It is also illegal to play bandy, an old field-hockey-style game, football and "any other game with a ball" on the streets under penalty of up to $5 for each offence.

In Fayetteville, Arkansas, it had been illegal until last year for anyone to sell milk without a cow permit. "Nobody bothered, nobody complained," City Attorney Kit Williams said of the law, which was repealed last year.

Until recently, Chicago's municipal code had authorised police officers to dump confiscated weapons in Lake Michigan at least five miles from the shoreline.

It had also prohibited carrying a body on public transportation unless it was that of a child younger than eight. These and 33 other laws considered obsolete, unconstitutional or redundant were repealed last year.

But unusual statutes survive around the US.

In the Georgia city of Kennesaw, population 26,000, every head of household is required to maintain a firearm, along with ammunition, in the name of security. Exemptions include the disabled and those convicted of a felony.

Police Chief Tim Callahan said the law isn't enforced, but "if it gives criminals pause, if they think, 'this is Kennesaw, everybody's got a gun here', so be it".

In the Shenandoah Valley city of Waynesboro, Virginia, no one is sure what incident sparked section 50-2 of the city code, which prohibits dropping "advertising matter" from aircraft.

Decades ago, officials in Ocean City, Maryland, hoped to restore the resort's family image by cracking down on topless vacationers. Topless men, that is.

A 1933 indecent exposure ordinance prohibited anyone older than 10 from going shirtless west of the beach. - (Los Angeles Times-Washington Post service)