BOOKS: Mules In Court

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1997:

Mules In Court by Hank W. Hannah
Order c/o Hannah, Sr. Clr., Texico, IL 62889. 1996. 73 pp., cloth, $16.20.

Early in the history of pioneer settlements,
lawyers had so little to do that
they had to clear land and homestead.
Business picked up considerably with the
arrival of mules. Mules, it seems, spark a
range of court cases. Once before a judge,
mules have influenced everything from a
misunderstanding of genetics to the rights of
Mules In Court reflects author
Hannah’s years of farming with mules, raising
mules (which is why he knows “some of
the lies about mules are true”), observing
gypsy horsetraders, witnessing the use of
mule paratroopers while commanding the
506th Parachute Infantry Regiment during
the 1944 Normandy invasion, practicing
and teaching veterinary law in Illinois and
abroad, and founding the American
Veterinary Medical Law Association.

Hannah indicates that unlike most
other species, especially other “farm” animals,
mules have fared rather well in court.
One lawyer established a mule’s right to sit,
sulking and immovable, between the shafts
of a vehicle in city streets. So esteemed are
mules (or were) that a judge ruled that calling
someone a “jackass” does not constitute
either obscene or abusive language.
An ass might sit in a town square,
but was discouraged from standing in one.
Laws against a mid-town “procreational
enterprise” were easier to enforce, it seems,
than today’s laws against peddling pornography
in the same location. Apart from that
inhibition, Hannah concludes that jurisprudence
usually protects mules, in a litigationmad
world, from the consequences of what
he terms their “renowned peculiarities.”
––Sharon Cregier

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