Falconry has a long and noble heritage. During most of that time, however, it has been heavily regulated. In Medieval England, for example, only people belonging to certain social classes were allowed to keep and hunt with birds of prey, and certain species of birds were considered appropriate only for holders of certain noble titles.
Though we in the present-day United States live in a far more egalitarian society, the practice of falconry still comes with onerous rules. The new video below from the Pacific Legal Foundation explains a lawsuit they are pursing to challenge those restrictions.
The PLF team summarizes the case:
For Peter and his fellow falconers, the bond with their birds is just as strong as that of other pet owners, if not more so. The time, training, and commitment it takes to become a successful falconer instills a special relationship between bird and man. In addition to hunting, trained falcons today are often used for abatement efforts as a non-chemical way to protect crops, landfills, hotels, and airports from destructive birds and rodents.
But government regulations prohibit falcons from just about any other commercial use—including films and photos—even for educational purposes. What’s worse, in order to keep their licenses, falconers must allow unannounced, unwarranted searches of their private homes.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service put these rules on the books in 2008, greatly expanding federal falconry regulation, and encouraged states to follow suit. California did just that, first in 2014 with the content-based restrictions, then in 2017 with the search requirement.
Peter decided that enough was enough.
Now, on behalf of Peter, and a group of longtime falconers, and the AFC, Pacific Legal Foundation filed a civil rights lawsuit to protect the rights of falconers under the First and Fourth Amendments against the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife and California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The suit argues that both state and federal regulations violate the falconers’ First Amendment protection from content-based limits on expression and their Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable home searches.