The initial focus of “animobility” scholarship has been on the dynamic physical geographies of animals. This article extends the meaning of animobility to explore the ways in which animals are affected — and, in fact, constituted — by law, as well as the ways in which they affect and constitute law, which I call “mobilegalities.” Specifically, I ask how animobility in contemporary American cities translates into the animals’ legal mobility, and how laws can adapt to animobility and the ensuing mobilegality by setting “traps” that then immobilize the animals. This article demonstrates, finally, that law is not a static narrative that produces monophonic meaning, but a living process that feeds on, and depends upon, dynamic human-nonhuman assemblages. The different modes of classification discussed here — body, taxonomy, and law — provide a yardstick by which to think of the rigidity and flexibility of mobilegality itself, constituting a matrix for the mobilization of legality.Braverman argues that
Humans purposefully bring certain animals into the city where they care for them: dogs and cats in the home, chickens and goats in the yard, and elephants and tigers in the zoo. Some animals escape their designated spaces and survive in the city to breed, such as monk parakeets in New York. Humans living in cities also intentionally create habitats for certain animals: hummingbirds, ospreys, trout, and bass. Still other animals — bedbugs, pigeons, Norway rats, gulls, squirrels, and Canadian geese, to name a few — come to the city uninvited and thrive in the urban habitat. The large mass of nonhuman animals in cities constitutes what is referred to in animal studies literature as a “shadow population” or a “subaltern animal town” (Wolch, West, and Gaines 736).
Whereas a large and growing literature is dedicated to studying the regulation and the policing of human populations in the city, not much has been written about the regulation and policing of animals in this space. Animal studies in contemporary urban theory are also quite rare (Lorimer; Wolch, West, and Gaines 735). This article contributes to the growing fascination with animals in the city by discussing the following questions: How are urban animals classified by animal laws? Which urban animals are protected, and which are unprotected, by law? And, finally, how do humans and animals work with and around the various legal classifications? While many of the animal classifications discussed in this article are not limited to cities — and, in fact, some are even defined by their occurrence outside cities — I have chosen to focus on legal classification in urban spaces because the condensed human-animal relationship in the contemporary city results in more frequent clashes between various human-animal trajectories than it does in less human-populated areas.
Legal norms are often premised on assumptions about human agency. Accordingly, the modern project of policing animals in the city does not target animals directly. Rather, it is performed through the regulation of humans. In this sense, the story of policing animals in modern time is inevitably a story about policing humans. I use the term “zooveillance,” in my article “Foucault Goes to the Zoo,” which may be useful in this context. There, I argue that traditional definitions of surveillance should expand beyond human animals to encompass nonhuman animals and inanimate things. Zooveillance — or the regulation of “bio” and “zoe” — conveys certain aspects of governing humans that are less visible otherwise. This article considers the conflicting interests that arise through the policing of humans who attempt to bring chickens back into cities, practice religious beliefs through animal sacrifice, or keep non-traditional pets such as the potbellied pig.
Furthermore, this article demonstrates that animals, too, practice some form of agency — referred to by Bruno Latour as “actancy,” the diversity of which is fully deployed without having to sort in advance the ‘true’ agencies from the ‘false’ ones” (55) — and that, at the very least, animals affect laws by their physical mobilities, or what Mike Michael refers to, in his piece “Roadkill,” as “animobilities” (279; See also Philo and Wilbert; Wolch and Emel 1998). Accordingly, wild or feral animals move about in trajectories that often bring them into zones of human settlement, where they encounter humans who move along their own trajectories. The initial focus of “animobility” scholarship has been on the physical geographies of animals. This article extends the meaning of animobility to explore the ways in which animals are affected — and, in fact, constituted — by law, as well as the ways in which they affect and constitute law. Specifically, I ask how animobility in contemporary American cities translates into the animals’ legal mobility, and how laws can adapt to animobility and the ensuing mobilegality by setting “traps” that then immobilize the animals. This article demonstrates, finally, that law is not a static narrative that produces monophonic meaning, but a living process that feeds on, and depends upon, dynamic humannonhuman assemblages. The different modes of classification discussed here — body, taxonomy, and law — provide a yardstick by which to think of the rigidity and flexibility of mobilegality itself, constituting a matrix for the mobilization of legality.
Structurally, I begin by introducing Michael’s term “animobilities,” its uses in animal studies scholarship, and my extension of this term to include animal law. Second, I present and discuss the central technology by which law governs animobility: classification. I contemplate the project of legal classification in general and the dominant legal paradigm of animal classification — the protection of animals — in particular. Third, I explore specific animal classifications: wildlife, pests, companion animals, and livestock. In each category, I discuss instances of reordering and reclassification so as to demonstrate the inherent messiness and fluidity of animal regulations. Fourth and finally, I explore the interrelations between law and animobility by studying particular classifications as these are enacted and enforced in Buffalo, New York. Throughout, I study the interrelations between “animobility” — the animal’s physical agency through movement — and the animal’s legal mobility: its mobilegality.Braverman concludes
Animal studies scholars speak about “animobility” to express the independent physical trajectories of animals that do not always coincide with those of humans. My article contributes to this scholarship by highlighting an additional dimension of animal-human relations in the city: law. Although many perceive law as static and fixed — and its effects on human-animal relations as similarly stagnating — I have offered a more nuanced account of how animal laws work. The article first explored law’s prominent technology — classification — and its construction as a combination of science and various levels of human protection. Next, the article provided anecdotal references from four central legal animal categories (wild, pest, pet, and farm animals) and from a variety of animals (dogs, coyotes, goldfish, potbellied pigs, roosters, and skunks) to demonstrate how laws are both triggered and bound by the shifting materialities of animal-human relationships, as much as they also bind and enable these materialities in the first place. These relationships are constantly in flux, as the various factors illuminated by this article — taxonomy, law, time-space, and materiality — constantly shift. To complicate matters, this article also conceived law as a multi-sited and plural regime that encompasses official state norms, religious traditions, and enforcement practices.
Alongside the dynamic elements of law, its mobilegality, law’s classificatory regime is at the same time quite rigid and static. Indeed, law constantly pigeonholes animals into fixed classifications. Moreover, a considerable effort goes into keeping animals confined within such classificatory domains. Operating this way, law often traps animobilities. The prohibitions from keeping wild and farm animals as pets, and those that prohibit treating pets as pests or pests as pets—all point to the desire of lawmakers to keep animals under the tight controls and within the confines of their classifications so as to keep cities safe, sanitized, and free of animal nuisances. At the same time, animals and humans also express their own mobilities, transgressing and challenging their legal classifications and forcing lawmakers and enforcers to adapt or develop new legal traps. Finally, mobilegalities are themselves constrained — by their own taxonomic and legal heritage, by technological limitations, and by human and nonhuman biological capacities.