- The list of useless laws in New York is plenty, but none are as weird as not being able to place an ice cream in your back pocket on Sundays!
- Many of these silly laws were put into place back when the world was a different place.
- Most of the laws are technically illegal, but you probably won’t be ticketed for them.
Most of us have heard about the crazy and outrageous laws from back in the day that are still technically illegal, but New York has some of the wildest laws on the books. From not letting your donkey sleep in a bathtub to not putting ice cream in your pocket, there’s a ton of stuff you can’t do in the Empire State.
Let’s look at some of the amazing laws in New York that are still illegal.
Why There Are Crazy Laws in New York That Are Still Illegal
This list of laws in New York that are still illegal will include some pretty wild ordinances that are hard to imagine being real. However, many of them date back several decades and were put into the books when the world was in a different place. Many of them no longer apply to our current way of life.
Many of the laws on the list are technically illegal, but you probably won’t be ticketed for them even if you do violate the policy. Most of these laws are still on the books because it’s much easier to create a law than to repeal it, and many politicians have a lot more on their minds than taking the time to go in and get these old-fashioned laws off of the books.
Some of these laws are based on superstition. Others are blue laws, which are focused on non-secular activities that should not be done on a Sunday from a religious standpoint. They’re basically moral laws like not working on a Sunday or not drinking or buying things on a Sunday. Either way, these laws are still on the books today.
1. You Cannot Allow a Donkey to Sleep in Your Bathtub
This state law came up back in 1924 when a dam broke and flooded a nearby town. One of the homes that was affected was owned by a rancher, and his donkey was in his bathtub taking a nap. We don’t know if the donkey was harmed during the incident, but it led to one of the many laws in New York that are still illegal.
2. You Cannot Throw a Ball at Someone’s Head For Fun
This law is mostly due to the fact that throwing a ball and striking someone in the head can be dangerous. It was originally put into law to protect carnival workers. There aren’t many reasons to try and hit someone in the head with a flying object otherwise, but if you’re trying to be funny or prank someone by throwing something at them, then you could get arrested.
As part of this law, it’s also illegal to host an event where it is encouraged to voluntarily submit to indignities like throwing balls at someone’s body or head. Plus, it’s illegal to throw knives at someone to “make them dance” and to ride a bike without a break for over eight hours in a row.
3. You Cannot Sell Cat or Dog Hair
This law is bizarre and sounds strange, but it’s still an ordinance that applies today. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, it’s illegal to trade, introduce, manufacture, or offer to sell cat and dog fur products in the interstate commerce of the United States.
This law is likely tied to the fact that, in many cases, cutting a pet’s fur may be linked to animal abuse, so it’s included in the New York law books. Oddly enough, the law does not cover wild cats, like bobcats, or wild dogs, like foxes and coyotes.
4. You Cannot Place an Ice Cream Cone in Your Back Pocket While in Public on Sundays
Years ago, when most people got around on horseback, bad folks would try to steal horses without touching them by putting ice cream in their back pockets. The idea was that the horse would want a lick and it would leave its post to follow the thief. They would put the ice cream in their back pocket because it’s much safer than putting it in a front pocket, especially if the horse decided to try and take a bite!
Even after the days of horseback riding, the law continues to be in the books. Some experts believe that the act of putting ice cream in a pocket continued to be illegal because police didn’t want to think that someone was hiding stolen merchandise.
5. You Cannot Have a Puppet Show in an Open Window
There’s not a lot of information about this rule, but there are a few reasons why it’s one of the crazy laws in New York that are still illegal. One reason may have been that it is dangerous to have a production in an open window because the puppeteer could fall through. The other idea is that it was frowned upon to have a puppet show that people weren’t paying to see. There’s also a possibility that a puppet show would block the sidewalk and create a safety issue. The fine for this act was $25 and 30 days in jail.
6. You Cannot Wear Slippers After 10 pm
The main reason that this law exists is that, back when it was introduced, officials were concerned that the smell of a person’s slippers could attract rats. Rats and rodents are more likely to come outside later at night when there are fewer people around, which accounts for the 10 pm timeframe. It’s better to wear regular shoes that trap bad odors.
7. You Cannot Put Your Thumb to Your Nose and Wiggle Your Fingers at Someone
This law is in reference to a gesture that people used to make in the 1920s and 1930s to someone they didn’t like. As the law states, the gesture includes putting your thumb on your nose, extending your fingers, and then wiggling them about. This was an insulting gesture back then, similar to giving someone the middle finger today.
This was the basis for the saying that you hear to this day, which is that “thumb’s one’s nose at someone.” This gesture was also used in the UK, where it’s called “cocking a snook.” In the name of public decency, the move was outlawed, and it remains on the books until this day.
8. A Man Cannot Wear a Jacket Without Also Wearing Matching Pants
It may seem a little extreme for the police to arrest you for a fashion faux pas, but this remains one of the laws in New York that are still illegal. However, these days, almost anything goes when it comes to fashion, especially in Times Square, so it’s very unlikely that you’d actually be arrested or ticketed for this offense.
9. You Cannot Place Wet Clothes on a Clothesline to Dry Without a Permit
Back in the day, before dryers existed, people around the world used to dry their clothes by hanging them on a clothesline. However, neighbors started to complain that they had to see their neighbors’ unmentionables hanging out for all to see, so this law was created. Now, the state is a little more lax on this, but you should still practice common courtesy.
10. If You Attend a Concert, it’s Illegal to Eat Peanuts While Walking Backward on the Sidewalk
This law likely came to fruition because at some point, someone was walking backward while eating, and they somehow hurt themselves. It could have been that they were more focused on the concert or the peanuts, and so they choked, and then they ruined it for anyone. Whatever the case, just make sure to be careful while snacking out in public.
11. You Cannot Pee on Pigeons in the Park
This is likely another law that was put in place because at least one person was found urinating on pigeons back in the day. Someone doing this could be charged with disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, animal abuse, and a slew of other crimes. It’s a no-brainer why this law is still on the books.
12. You Cannot Eat Ice Cream While Standing on the Sidewalk
This law is still on the books in Carmel, New York. While you likely won’t get arrested for breaking this law today, the ordinance was likely created because if the ice cream drips, it can make a mess on the sidewalk and people could slip, or it could become sticky and create a mess.
13. You Also Cannot Eat Ice Cream While Waiting for the Bus
A similar law in New York says that you also cannot eat ice cream while sitting at the bus stop waiting for your ride to arrive. Again, this is likely tied to the fact that ice cream can make a mess, and they want the sidewalks to remain clean. It could have also been because people would bring their ice cream on the bus and make a mess there as well.
14. You Cannot Have “Man Boobs” in New York
This is one of the craziest laws in New York that are still illegal. There isn’t a lot of information about why this became law, but it’s still in the books until this day.
15. You’re Not Allowed to Jump Out of a Plane Unless You’re in Danger or You’re Ordered to Do So
This law says that you cannot parachute out of a plane unless you’re in peril or someone tells you to do so to save your life. This is likely due to people parachuting without a permit and then causing havoc. You also shouldn’t parachute out of a plane without proper supervision.
16. You Cannot Water Your Lawn Unless You’re the One Holding the Hose
There’s not a lot of information about why this became law. Many believe it’s about conserving water and not overdoing the watering. There may have been an issue with other people watering random lawns. Whatever it is, this is one of the many laws in New York that are still illegal.
17. You Cannot Cut Up Another Person’s Tongue Unless You’re a Doctor or Dentist
Although this is a law in New York, it really should be frowned upon in all 50 states. The idea is that only a doctor or dentist would have the proper credentials and know how to properly cut up a tongue. This is also likely tied to the idea that if you’re cutting up someone’s tongue, that you’re doing them bodily harm.
18. You Cannot Change the Color of a Rabbit’s Fur
This is another of the laws that is likely tied to animal abuse, and so it remains on the books. In any case, rabbits should be left alone.
19. You Cannot Have Three or More Unrelated Individuals Living in the Same Apartment
This law was put in place years ago as part of the Housing Maintenance Code. However, although it seems strange, citations have been given for this offense as recently as 2010. The law likely goes back to the fact that if people are not related then it can be hard to track them down if they don’t pay their share of the rent or there are maintenance issues.
20. You Cannot Flirt in Public or You Could Get a $25 Fine
This law goes all the way back to 1902 when flirting was outright outlawed in public. The law mostly applied to men who would stop and turn around just to try and flirt with a passing woman. If they were caught, they were fined $25. If the same individual committed a second offense, they would be ordered to wear a pair of horse blinders whenever they went out in public. There are some opinions that this law may have also been enacted to fight the plague of prostitution.
21. You Cannot Commit Adultery
It’s still illegal to commit adultery in New York. It’s actually a class B misdemeanor that’s punishable by a $500 fine or 90 days in jail. This is a long-standing law that’s been in effect since 1907, and as you may imagine, it’s rarely enforced.
22. You Can Only Drink Out of Plastic Bottles at the Beach
This is another of those very old laws that you won’t be ticketed for any time soon. The origins are unknown, but it could have had something to do with the fact that people used to drink out of glass containers, and if it broke, then it could hurt a person or an animal. Today, you can drink out of other types of containers, but it’s still important to be careful.
23. You Cannot Take Selfies With Tigers
Many can probably understand why this is a law. After all, you don’t want to put yourself in any dangerous situation with a tiger or any large cat. This is actually a more recent law. It was put into place after there was a surge of men posting selfies next to tigers in zoos for the Tinder app. This fact scared Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, and in 2014, it was put into law. It carries a $500 fine.
Summary of the Current Laws in New York That Are Illegal
|1.||You Cannot Allow a Donkey to Sleep in Your Bathtub.|
|2.||You Cannot Throw a Ball at Someone’s Head For Fun.|
|3.||You Cannot Sell Cat or Dog Hair.|
|4.||You Cannot Place an Ice Cream Cone in Your Back Pocket While in Public on Sundays.|
|5.||You Cannot Have a Puppet Show in an Open Window.|
|6.||You Cannot Wear Slippers After 10 pm.|
|7.||You Cannot Put Your Thumb to Your Nose and Wiggle Your Fingers at Someone.|
|8.||A Man Cannot Wear a Jacket Without Also Wearing Matching Pants.|
|9.||You Cannot Place Wet Clothes on a Clothesline to Dry Without a Permit.|
|10.||If You Attend a Concert, it’s Illegal to Eat Peanuts While Walking Backwards on the Sidewalk.|
|11.||You Cannot Pee on Pigeons in the Park.|
|12.||You Cannot Eat Ice Cream While Standing on the Sidewalk.|
|13.||You Also Cannot Eat Ice Cream While Waiting for the Bus.|
|14.||You Cannot Have “Man Boobs” in New York.|
|15.||You’re Not Allowed to Jump Out of a Plane Unless You’re in Danger or You’re Ordered to Do So.|
|16.||You Cannot Water Your Lawn Unless You’re the One Holding the Hose.|
|17.||You Cannot Cut Up Another Person’s Tongue Unless You’re a Doctor or Dentist.|
|18.||You Cannot Change the Color of a Rabbit’s Fur.|
|19.||You Cannot Have Three or More Unrelated Individuals Living in the Same Apartment.|
|20.||You Cannot Flirt in Public or You Could Get a $25 Fine.|
|21.||You Cannot Commit Adultery.|
|22.||You Can Only Drink Out of Plastic Bottles at the Beach.|
|23.||You Cannot Take Selfies With Tigers.|
These are some of the craziest current laws in New York that are still illegal. They really tell you a lot about how times have changed. One hundred years down the road, the laws we have now may seem strange, but only time will tell.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Reginast777
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.