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News Story
Updated: 10/11/2013 05:06:00PM

Should we allow chickens in our city?

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Nicolas Smith

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City commissioners recently agreed to study relaxation of City ordinances regulating animal husbandry and truck farming within city limits. I will, in three parts, present the potential merits, and definite drawbacks, of any reasonable revision. The first part discusses “user” issues.

One benefit discussed is to allow 4H young adults to participate in animal projects. I believe 4H is a wonderful organization that teaches youth responsibility, finance, veterinary science, and other qualities. However, if the ordinance is relaxed to allow 4H youth, it must allow everyone to participate or it would be discriminatory. And who would enforce any such separation? It has to be all or none.

To avoid public health and watershed contamination issues, do we allow farm activities outside the watershed only? That would be discriminatory. Do we allow only certain animals or fowls like chickens? That would be discriminatory particularly towards individual 4H members. Do we allow just small animals? Many animals get big over time. Are we going to have regulations requiring ‘termination’ of over-sized animals?

Imagine a cute 25 pound piglet picked up at the State Fair, that grows to be a 600 pound boar, the family pet. When that boar smells his true love across town (oh yes they can!), that picket fence will not stop him from a romantic evening! Are we going to have strict confinement rules with fence and enclosure specifications? And if you do who will enforce those rules when broken? When that boar, or even chickens, get out of consignment, the calls aren’t going to code enforcement. They’ll go to 911! Do we really want our professional police force chasing that boar down Highway 60? We all know how that ends. Are we going to have hefty fines for violations of the confinement rules? Since the calls will usually go to 911, will the police be empowered to issue citations backed by an administrative body to adjudicate violations and citations? The money the city makes from ticket issuance probably wouldn’t cover police costs. And what about the inevitable neighbor on neighbor complaints that could, and often do lead to confrontations and occasionally violence? It certainly is within the realm of possibility. Do the police need that additional risk in their duties?

Animals and fowl make waste, and confined animals and fowl leave confined waste. Are we going to have rules regarding the size, location, and removal of waste piles? Will we need a forensic specialist, a “master manure manipulator” to assure that the pile is manure and not compost? Or do we just regulate the smell?

And what about the rule breakers? Lax enforcement typically leads to scofflaws. One need only look at the number of illegal sidewalk signs in use nowadays. New signs are advertising signs for sale. Once the gate is open, the foxes will raid the hen house.

And then there are the public health concerns. But you will have to read that in my next column.

Nicholas Smith is a resident of Lake Wales


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