Are Bumble Bees Fish? Are Fish Animals?

My eponymous co-blogger Eugene Volokh has called attention to a case that involves the question whether a bumble bee is a “fish” for purposes of a California statute. This kind of problem of surprising statutory scope comes up often (mischief rule to the rescue!). This particular case brought to mind a pithy case I sometimes teach in Remedies. It’s Knox v. Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 12 Mass. App. Ct. 407 (Mass. App. Ct. 1981), and is in the declaratory judgment chapter in the remedies casebook that Emily Sherwin and I are the editors of (Ames, Chafee, and Re on Remedies).

Knox raises the question whether goldfish count as “animals” under a Massachusetts statute. The court decides yes: “We merely conclude, in interpreting this humane statute designed to protect animals subject to possible neglect by prizewinners, that [it] applies to goldfish.” The reason it’s a remedies case is that it illustrates the kind of situation for which the declaratory judgment is apt, because the parties need an uncertainty clarified, and once it is clarified, they do not need further direction and management by the court.

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