Watch him pull a USDA-mandated rabbit disaster plan out of his hat

This summer, Marty the Magician got a letter from the U.S. government. It began with six ominous words: “Dear Members of Our Regulated Community . . .”

Washington had questions about his rabbit. Again.

Marty Hahne, 54, does magic shows for kids in southern Missouri. For his big finale, he pulls a rabbit out of a hat. Or out of a picnic basket. Or out of a tiny library, if he’s doing his routine about reading being magical.

To do that, Hahne has an official U.S. government license. Not for the magic. For the rabbit.

The Agriculture Department requires it, citing a decades-old law that was intended to regulate zoos and circuses. Today, the USDA also uses it to regulate much smaller “animal exhibitors,” even the humble one-bunny magician.

That was what the letter was about. The government had a new rule. To keep his rabbit license, Hahne needed to write a rabbit disaster plan.

“Fire. Flood. Tornado. Air conditioning going out. Ice storm. Power failures,” Hahne said, listing a few of the calamities for which he needed a plan to save the rabbit.

Or maybe not. Late Tuesday, after a Washington Post article on Hahne was posted online, the Agriculture Department announced that the disaster-plan rule would be reexamined.

Secretary [Tom] Vilsack asked that this be reviewed immediately and common sense be applied,” department spokeswoman Courtney Rowe said in an e-mail message.

Rowe said that Vilsack had ordered the review “earlier this week.” But it was not announced until 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. Just hours before — at 5:50 p.m. — the department had been vigorously defending the rule, with another spokeswoman praising its “flexibility,” saying it was designed to accommodate even a small-time operation such as a magician and a rabbit.

For Hahne, the saga has provided a lesson in one of Washington’s bad old habits — the tendency to pile new rules on top of old ones, with officials using good intentions and vague laws to expand the reach of the federal bureaucracy.

Read more of this The Washington Post article by David A. Fahrenthold by clicking here.

Photo: Julie Denesha/For The Washington Post