Easter Sessions

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With Easter sessions I sometimes get the question, do you use live animals?  Simply put NO.  There are alot of photographers that are out there using live animals for portrait sessions that are not doing it the legal way nor are they aware that you have to have a special license to do use them nor how one simple move can kill this poor animal.

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 checked the PPA website and even tho the original writer says this, I have found that they do not take a stand against it but they do tell you, you have to be covered with permits and insurance.  They also say: If you rent animals to conduct a shoot, ensure that the vendor you use is properly licensed. Don’t be afraid to ask for proof (like a copy of the certificate or license number) so that you can verify it with the appropriate local, state or federal agency.  You might think it pushy or forward, but it’s really no different than venues asking you for proof of insurance before allowing you to shoot. It’s a legal precaution smart businesses should take)
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.

So in short if you are using a photographer that is using live animals for Easter shoots or any other shoots please please make sure they have a license for it and that they have insurance in case your little one gets bit!!!

Usually, you will see beginner photographers 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.

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.

credit via Shuttermouth (some wording has been changed but not much)

One Comment

  1. 3-14-2013

    Great post. Most people don’t understand the extent of having animals in their pictures. Very well written.