Fowl Language Doesn't Fly

Published 4:33 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2011

CUMBERLAND – The majority of Cumberland's Supervisors did not approve of amending the County's Code to call for the confinement of animals to include poultry and fowl or to establish a penalty for the violation of such during the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, December 13.

The ordinance, that would have amended Chapter 10 of the Cumberland's Code, failed on a three to two vote-Supervisors Bobby Oertel and Elbert Womack voted in favor of the changes that were first brought to the Board's attention by Cumberland's animal control officer. Supervisors Bill Osl, Tim Kennell, and Chairman Van Petty voted in opposition of the changes.

“This was at the request of the animal control officer,” suggested County Attorney Howard Estes. “He put in the suggestions to the amendments to the County Code.”

The proposed changes would have amended the current 'no fence law' in the county and added, “poultry or fowl, including any game birds raised in captivity” to the list of animals included under where a boundary line of each lot or tract of land or any stream acts as a fence.

The amendments would have also added this language to the Code, “It shall be unlawful for any owner or manager of any livestock, poultry or fowl, to permit such animal as to which the boundaries of lots or tracts of land have been constituted a legal fence, to run at large beyond the limits of the boundaries of the lot or tract of land where such animal is confined.

“Any person violating the provision of this section shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”

Kennell asked, “How big of a problem is this? Is it a widespread issue across the county?”

At that time during the meeting the Animal Control Officer John Sullivan addressed the Board.

“I had four complaints in October-three complaints were on chickens. They were coming up on a lady's porch and roosting on the porch steps and I went to the boy and talked to him and he said, “Well, you ain't got no law.' I caught 17 chickens and took them back to him… And then there were eight or 10 geese pulling up plants in one yard. So, there were four complaints in one month.”

Sullivan added, “I think the law should be passed…to protect the citizens.”

He also pointed out that the geese he spoke of were “domestic.”

“These were tame,” he added.

“…The man has chickens running loose. The chickens are going on over, flying in the dog pen and eating the dog food and laying eggs in the shed-the skinning shed-of the hunt club. So, to me, for the citizens, the law should be passed,” Sullivan said.

Public Comment

The public hearing was then opened and there was one name on the sign up sheet and that was Sullivan's.

Although Arlene Vance spoke under the “public address” period of the meeting, which was held earlier, she had intended to sign up on the public hearing, it was explained.

“She just signed up in the wrong place,” explained Womack.

Her comments were related to the ordinance change.

When she addressed during the public address segment she said, “I'd like to see the amendment to the animals include geese and chickens of that nature. I'd like to see that pass.”

At that point, Lou Seigel stood up and asked, “Excuse me, Mr. Van Petty, but are you asking if someone else would like to put their name on that list in order to be able to speak?”

Petty responded, “Yeah, I was going to allow it.”

“There is something I'd like to say if I may,” said Seigel.

“If I heard correctly-geese-would that be Canadian geese? Geese that normally pass through here by the 100s every year, if not by the thousands? We really have no control over natural wildlife and if that was the case I have about a dozen deer that come roaming through my yard, not to mention raccoon. Are we going to try to regulate control of those natural habitat animals? The geese are just passing through…and I would think that it would be a much better approach towards solving the problem rather than passing another law of some sort that is either not enforceable or may get out of control…”

Then, Supervisor Osl spoke up and said, “It was domestic geese.”

After those comments, Petty said, “That will conclude the public comment period.”

Someone (who was later identified to The Herald as Dale Thompson) from the back of the courtroom announced, “Sir, I'd like to say something if I may.”

“Well, we just closed the comment period,” responded Petty.

Thompson was not allowed to address the Board related to the proposed ordinance.

The No-Fly Decision

“I know it's an issue from the animal control because he has no grounds to enforce anything when he gets a complaint,” stated Petty when it came time for discussion. “I agree with you Mr. Osl that we're just passing another law but in this case it's just an amendment to an already existing ordinance that we have.”

Estes noted, “There is already provisions for certain animals for them to be caught when running at-large-dogs are included.”

“We just need to add…poultry or fowl…I have no problem with that…and I'd like to make a motion to that effect,” said Supervisor Oertel.

Kennell added, “My point was, we have 182 square miles of Cumberland County that we are now going to be policing chickens and I know we have individual issues with these-I've had them in my yard and I've taken care of those issues-I don't know what's next…I don't know where we go from here. My opinion is that we're pushing it and I understand the issues that a few citizens have but I've been able to maintain that on my own.”

When Chairman Petty called for the vote two Cumberland Supervisors voted in favor of the ordinance amendments and three voted in opposition. The motion was defeated.