October 30, 2018

Federal lawsuit challenges criminal treatment of bird owners

Sacramento, California; October 30, 2018: Government cannot force people to choose between their pets and their constitutional rights. That’s the crux of a federal lawsuit filed today by Peter Stavrianoudakis, a California resident and longtime licensed falconer. He is joined in the lawsuit by his wife, Katherine, two individual falconers and the American Falconry Conservancy.

The suit challenges state and federal regulations that severely restrict commercial use of trained falcons and require falconers to forfeit their Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable warrantless home and property searches to keep their licenses.

“My wife lives every day in fear that armed government agents will demand entry to our home whenever they wish, just because we own a bird,” says Peter, a deputy public defender for Stanislaus County, California. “I defend people’s constitutional rights every day. Now I’m asking a court to defend ours.”

The art of falconry—capturing, training, and using birds of prey to catch wild quarry—has been around for more than 2,000 years. 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. The U.S. government began a license requirement in the 1970s, broadened federal regulations in 2008, and encouraged states to follow suit.

“Every American has the right to be secure in their own home,” says Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Timothy Snowball, who represents the plaintiffs on a pro bono basis. “If bird ownership allows government agents to search your home unannounced and without a warrant, what’s next? Dogs? Cats? Goldfish? Our lawsuit makes the case that these state and federal falconry regulations are for the birds.”

Read more about the case at pacificlegal.org/falconry.

About Pacific Legal Foundation

Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is the nation’s leading public interest legal organization devoted to preserving individual rights and economic freedom. Since 1973, donor-supported PLF has successfully litigated for limited government, private property rights, and free enterprise in the nation’s highest courts.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Collin Callahan at ccallahan@pacificlegal.org.

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