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Few problems seen with urban chickens

As the Hill County sanitarian and a lifelong pet owner, I would like to make my thoughts known on the issue of urban chickens.

I have owned dogs or cats all of my life and only until recently did I lose my dog due to old age. Pets are a part of our family, and it bothers me to see many dogs or cats abandoned or running loose. I do not see a lot of individuals purchasing chickens as a pet, but more for eggs and meat. I have researched this idea of urban chickens and find that many larger communities all across the United States have started allowing chickens by adapting specific rules.

Any system of organization that makes the owner of an animal responsible for their pet (dog, cat, miniature pig, horse, etc.) I am all for it.

Right now we have very little authority or oversight of dog or cat owners. Yes, there is an ordinance in Havre and Hill County on dogs, but many still run loose causing waste problems on both private and public land. Dogs and cats can and have carried major diseases like rabies or distemper and do bite people, causing injury and nuisance problems everywhere in this county.

On the other hand, chickens are raised for egg production and food. This process is almost like a garden in that the chicken, egg, and waste material are raised, harvested and used by the owner and this process can be stopped in less than a few weeks.

I like the idea of a permit system in addition to an ordinance for chickens because both city and county officials can keep track of who is raising them and if a major problem occurs, the permit is revoked and the owner removes the birds very easily.

Dog and cat problems occur quite often and many times cannot be resolved for months or years. Sometimes dog or cat owners do not clean up waste, creating odor problems, do not monitor noise, and do not keep their pets under their control. Several complaints to my office involve an owner that has multiple dogs or cats and refuses to worry about how these animals affect their neighbors.

I am sure there are several homes in the city limits and on the zoned areas of Hill County that already have a few chickens and I have never had a problem filed to my office. Currently, if I do see any farm-type animals in these areas, my job is to enforce the rules that were adopted by Havre and Hill County and have the owners remove them.

I believe that many of the problems with keeping chickens discussed in recent meetings may be over-exaggerated because we see visions of our grandmother's chicken coop having 50-100 chickens. By working with responsible chicken owners to develop a workable system of accountability in this area, my office feels that there will be very few problems with urban chickens and can support this idea for Havre and Hill County.

(Clay Vincent is Hill County sanitanian.)


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