It’s that wonderful time of the year again, where Spring is around the corner, and warmer days are ahead. It’s the perfect time to start thinking about portraits for you and your little ones. However, there is one thing that is becoming popular with novice photographers to get clients into their doors: an Easter Mini Session, with a live animal. Read more below to learn of the reasons why we do not offer these types of sessions, and help us to save the lives of countless baby animals typically used in these sessions.
When asked about Easter Mini Sessions, we typically also have the question, “Will you provide live animals to be in the session with my child?” Our answer to this is, “No.” And we are going to give you twelve great reasons why we do not offer live animals in any of our sessions, Easter or otherwise.
1. Proper Licensing Required – The USDA requires that any photographer using a live animal (mammal) to have a license through them in order to lawfully work with that animal. Different States also may require additional licensing through their government as well, however, even if it is simply one live animal, you must have a USDA License to proceed legally. (Licensing and Registration Under the Animal Welfare Act)
2. Official Inspection of Premises – A standard part of the process for acquiring a license through the USDA is to be inspected by their offices. Being a mandatory measure, even if your State does not require a license, you still need to have this done through the USDA. They may even be present during the portrait session. And, if any animal is injured or killed, the fines are serious and the photographer can be banned from actively doing business… Permanently.
3. No Fun For Baby Animals – Animals are often mishandled and mistreated by small children. This includes, but is not limited to: being sat on, yanking or pulling of their fur, squishing the animal, choking them while being held wrong, and such much more. Of course this is no fun for the animal, and may result in death, or extreme injury. Talk about a great childhood memory, am I right?
4. Delicate Popular Animals – Rabbits are extremely delicate animals, whose spines can snap simply by being held incorrectly, or severely damaged without much external damage occurring. Some rabbits can become so stressed simply by the situation they’re in, that they can die of heart failure right on the spot. And, even though fowl (baby chickens, ducks, or geese, etc.) isn’t regulated by the USDA, please keep in mind that the wings and legs of these baby animals are very delicate and can easily break or be completely pulled off by a small child who does not know just how careful to be with these animals.
5. Easily Scared – Animals naturally panic when put into situations they would otherwise avoid. Children holding baby animals, is not a typical situation for that animal, and they can become panicked or frightened. A scared animal will then act out in the only way it knows how, and that is to defend itself from harm. A frightened rabbit or chick can scratch or bite, which can cause severe lacerations to the offender. These lacerations can also become infected, cause a rash, or even pass on a disease to the human.
6. Salmonella – One of the prevalent diseases that baby rabbits or chicks can pass along to humans, is salmonella. This can be devastating to small children. Please check this link for signs and symptoms of Salmonella.
8. PETA is on the Lookout – Beware, PETA actively looks for photographers (especially on Facebook) that use live animals in their sessions. They have successfully lobbied the largest photography studios (Sears, JCPenney, Olan Mills) to stop the use of live animals in their sessions. They will call and check on the licensing of any photographer they find using live animals, and any filed complaints against the photographer in question. No animal deserves to be abused, neglected, nor mistreated (even accidentally) simply for a photo that could be created otherwise.
9. PPA or Professional Photographers of America – The largest association of Photographers in the world, takes the same stance as we do. Treat live animals ethically and according to the law. There are photographers who do everything right, and according to the law, and they can be found here.
10. Liability Issues – Photographers, this one is especially for you. You can be sued for any injuries, infections, and/or damages that occur during YOUR session. Don’t forget that a lot of people have allergies and asthma, which may be complicated due to the presence of the live animals. You wouldn’t want your client to die of complications from Anaphylaxis, now would you?
11. Stressful for the Clients too – If you have little baby animals running around, what do you expect the children to do? They will of course follow the animals! Children love to run and to chase after animals. This can lead to a stressful situation for not only the photographer who is trying to obtain perfect portraits, but also to the parents, who want the perfect portraits. Other frustrations that may arise is when the animal isn’t cooperating with the child for the pictures themselves. It’s just not a fun situation for anyone involved.
12. Poop – Animals poop where they please, especially baby animals. This includes, on your children, on their nice new Easter clothing, and all over the photography set. Who wants to deal with a literal load of crap? Not us.
As we stated above, a lot of novice photographers think that they can get extra clients into their doors by purchasing these baby animals for these specialized sessions, without really considering the ramifications for all involved. You will honestly find that very few professional photographers offer this option at all, and will instead, offer stuffed animals or even digitally add in portraits of baby animals, when that situation arises.
If you do find a professional photographer offering live animals, they do so in a very controlled setting, where no one is allowed to touch the animals. They also will have the appropriate licensing in place.
Family pets are the only animals allowed during a session without a license. However, the ownership of that pet must be must be established. In other words, if a photographer attempts to “sell” you a pet for the duration of the session, and have you “sell” it back to them after the session, that simply will not work. You cannot rent animals either, so good luck there.
Finally, to see if a photographer you’re interested in has the proper licensing in place to handle live animals, you can do a quick search on the USDA-APHIS databank. Please save an animals’ life and don’t put yourself, your child, baby animals, or your photographer, under any unnecessary risks. There are plenty of other ways to have beautiful and cute pictures of your children during this time of the year, than by using live animals. Please note that the bunny pictured in this blog post is a pet of a friend, who agreed to let us photograph him for this blog post.