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This answer from early in the private beta argues that legal questions should generally be off-topic, giving the following examples:

  • Is keeping pet x in jurisdiction y illegal?
  • What permits do I need for pet x?
  • My dog bit someone, am I gonna be sued?

Since then we've reached some concensus that for medical questions the topic is more nuanced; specific, localized questions aren't a good fit, but there are all sorts of other questions that would be on-topic (see here). And today Chad wrote:

Why are legal questions off topic? I understand not allowing questions that ask does X law apply to my problem being off topic. But general legal questions should be answerable. Especially questions on importing and exporting pets, the use of medications, and any other that do not have hyper local answers. Do I need a licence is hyper local because it is going to vary by county and city sometimes in the US, and I suspect other places. But In the US where should I go to find out about licencing requirements? should be on topic.

So, how do we feel about legal questions? If some are on-topic and some off-topic, how do we characterize the difference?

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    I suspect the general "Do you need a lawyer to figure this out?" might be a good starting guideline. – Ash Nov 21 '13 at 15:37
  • Can you update the question post with a list of the current, accepted, legal-based questions we have? – JoshDM Nov 21 '13 at 16:07
  • That's a good idea, but I won't be able to do that for a little while. Feel free to add this if you like -- thanks! – Monica Cellio Nov 21 '13 at 16:08
  • Chad seems to have at least a bit of it handled in his answer. – JoshDM Nov 21 '13 at 16:53
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I've always been uncomfortable with these all-out moratoriums against anything that brushes up against so-called "legal questions." If I want to know if it's okay to capture Bald Eagles for pets, there's an answer; and we — even as mere non-lawyerly citizens — are perfectly capable of discussing such issues.

That's a far cry from asking what to do (legally) if my dog bites someone. That type of highly situation-dependent, custom legal advice is only appropriate coming from a lawyer that can look at your case specifically. But "what permits do I need for pet {x}?" … or "is keeping pet {x} legal?" … I think those are perfectly appropriate, given enough information to answer the question.

And before someone argues "but jurisdictions differ… and laws can change", that's true for a lot of issues you can ask about on any of these sites. Yes, answers can change, and good advice can vary based on your specific circumstances. But that's why we describe how to ask complete, well-considered questions… and offer wiki-style editing and voting as the best answers change over time and expertise.

I just don't see the need of getting too worked up over these questions. I believe a conscientious community will just know when to say "we're not comfortable answering this question" without codifying a knee-jerk moratorium whenever anyone dares mention an issue law or a legal issue.

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Questions asking for facts about the law reguarding pets should be on topic.

For example:

Questions asking about applications the law should be off topic.

For example:

  • I have had a pet Oranatange since 1980. Do changes to the endangered species act affect me?
  • My neighbor's dog likes to play in my yard, can I be sued if he gets?
  • My dog destroy something on my neighbors property. Do I have a legal obligation to inform then neighbor it was my dog that did it?
  • Can I sell my goats milk to my neighbors?

Questions that are hyper-local should also be off topic because the rules and governing bodies change to regularly:

  • Where do I go to get a dog licence in Los Angeles?
  • Am I required to get a parvo vaccination in (insert small town here)?
  • What are the regulations reguarding keeping Chickens inside the City Limits of Chicago?

Keeping the answers to these questions updated is going to be very difficult and we are likely to end up with alot of out dated answers which will degrade the quality of the site.

These questions can be saved by changing them to ask How do I find out... ie:

  • How can I find out where to get a dog licence in Los Angeles?

These questions are useful and while the exact place to look in LA may be different than NY I suspect if you start at that place in NY you will get to where you want to go eventually making the question useful.

  • Don't we have some preexisting legal questions on the main site aside from the ferret question? – JoshDM Nov 21 '13 at 16:07
  • I thought so too but none that were directly legal questions... we have a few that have answers that involve the legal aspects. But that was the only one I Could find that was directly a legal question. – user9 Nov 21 '13 at 16:11
  • Anything more than a single live example is better than a single live example, IMHO. – JoshDM Nov 21 '13 at 16:16
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    I don't particularly agree with your premise about local questions. When someone searches dog licenses in Los Angeles, I sure would like them to find this site. Once we ask allllll those questions that have been asked hundreds of times on every other site on this subject, it's those long-tailed questions that only a few people can answer — and do answer — that will really make this site shine. It's the interesting rarely-asked, well-answered question that will make this site stand out in the long term. This site should strive to become The Complete Compendium™ of all things pets. – Robert Cartaino Nov 21 '13 at 16:18
  • Laws are just government-enforced rules; I think the Amtrak question, which does have a legal answer, qualifies in an abstract manner. – JoshDM Nov 21 '13 at 16:18
  • @RobertCartaino - which is why I am an advocate for the validity of the Pet Insurance questions. – JoshDM Nov 21 '13 at 16:19
  • @JoshDM I'm not familiar with the issue myself, except a vague feeling that they're somewhat scam-y. But if it's a commonly-asked issue, they should be asked and answered, even if it's just to debunk (or support) their validity. But we don't generally support broad "religious war" discussion/issues — so if there's no true "answer" to these questions, that's something to consider. – Robert Cartaino Nov 21 '13 at 16:23
  • @RobertCartaino - The problem is where you get them changes. We can tell you how to find out I think, but we should not try to become the pet registry phone book. I have qualified that we can save those questions though. – user9 Nov 21 '13 at 16:28
  • @Chad - any post which contains potentially transient information should always try to have a minor disclaimer sentence stating so. – JoshDM Nov 21 '13 at 16:52
  • How can I find out where to go helps everyone... where do I go right now helps one person at the time. And while LA may have a larger audience than say Herrin IL its still a very limited subset of the audience that will ever care. Where you can probably apply the answer finding out in LA To anywhere and figure out what you need to know. – user9 Nov 21 '13 at 17:02

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