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The Weirdest Laws In Small-Town America

Updated September 23, 2021 3.3k votes 400 voters 17.4k views25 items

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Laws should keep us safe, but human silliness and petty bureaucracy often derail the best intentions. For instance, the strangest small-town laws in America prove regulations don't always have to make sense. From protecting elephants in the Deep South to regulating the height of weeds in the Rockies, America's most bizarre state laws confirm the nation's penchant for overreaching Big Brother-ness at the micro level.

Weird laws are nothing new in the United States. Many of these stretch back hundreds of years - they are typically outdated and rarely, if ever, enforced. But these odd laws are worthy of a good laugh.

  • 1

    Greene, NY: No Eating Peanuts And Walking Backwards At Concerts

    Photo: NIAID / Wikimedia / CC BY 2.0

    This one is a real head-scratcher. The city of Greene, NY, specifically bans eating peanuts while walking backward, but only during concerts. Little evidence exists to put this law into any context, but it's safe to assume lawmakers saw the discarded peanut shells and backward-walking as safety hazards. Why the ordinance only applies to concerts remains a mystery.

    Is this weird?
  • 2

    Topeka, KS: Never Scream In A Haunted House

    Photo: Corey Coyle / Wikimedia / CC BY 3.0

    The city of Topeka, KS, has strict rules when it comes to haunted houses. They've implemented regulations that prevent attendees from screaming or creating any disturbances, ensuring they are "orderly at all times." Violating this law can result in a disorderly conduct charge, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to one month in prison, or $500 maximum in fines.

    Is this weird?
  • 3

    Los Angeles, CA: No Dog-Mating Near Churches

    Photo: MarkScottAustinTX / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 2.0

    LA has a law on the books saying dogs cannot mate within 500 feet of a church. This law is not reserved only for Angeleno canines; several communities in California have this same ordinance. If someone catches dogs in flagrante delicto near a house of worship, the dogs' owners face a fine of up to $500 and/or six months in jail.

    Is this weird?
  • 4

    Wilbur, WA: No Riding Ugly Horses

    Photo: Jussi You-S-See / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 2.0

    In the town of Wilbur, WA, equine appearances are important. The city has an active law making it illegal to ride an ugly horse within city limits. The local council has not discussed the reasoning behind this law. It's also unclear who's responsible for determining a horse's repulsiveness. But one thing is known: If you violate this ordinance, you face a fine of $300.

    Is this weird?