Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Tracking down the law

The Michigan Right to Farm Act allows any property owner to declare themselves a "farm" and therefore raise food for themselves and their families, as long as they comply with "generally accepted agricultural management principles". In this document, fencing is described for all types of livestock, including bees, but not for poultry. There is a mention that poultry housing should be clean and provide protection from predators, but nothing that says that they must be inside a perimeter fence.

The "Animals Running at large" bill, section 11, defines the bill as covering cattle, horses, swine, sheep, mules, burros and goats. The bill makes the owner responsble for any damages caused by the animals running at large, and also states that a person violating this law is guilty of a misdemeanor. But poultry is not covered!

So far the state law has not been helpful. The Backyard Chickens web site lists several ordinances for the City of Royal Oak, but that's a few counties away.

I live in Macomb County. The Macomb County Animal Control Department regulations state, in Section 6.5: Stray livestock: A person who owns or has custody or control of livestock or poultry shall prevent such animals from running at large without the consent of the property owner. The regulations provide penalties including fines and possible jail time!

OK, now that I know I have some legal ground to stand on, I guess I need to make it very clear to the lady that she does not have my consent for her ducks and chickens to be on my property. I want to be a good neighbor, but I expect her consideration in return. I would not call Animal Control for an occasional violation, but this is every day, all day long. The chickens have gotten bolder and are scratching in the mulch in my flowerbeds. The ducks continue to lay eggs in the pond. She and her husband cannot continue to mow the long grass between our properties to make it easier for the fowl to access our property after telling me she will "try" to keep her animals at home. She may have to install fencing at her own expense. If she hasn't gotten her poultry under control within a week, the next step is a letter to her landlord. If that does not help within another week, I will call Animal Control.

I was trying to be too nice on the previous attempt to talk to her, I told her that she needed to be aware that our pond is treated if she planned to butcher the ducks. She said, "Oh, no they're our pets! We could never butcher them!" I replied that so far the ducks have not made a huge mess, (trying to keep neighborly relations friendly) but that it could become a problem with poop, etc. She said she would come over and clean up the mess. I think I allowed that to pass without reply. (I should tell her to come and clean the eggs up out of the muck!) We asked her to keep them on her property and she said "What can I do?" Trimming their feathers won't work, since they walk over, they don't fly. I don't care what she does! but she has a problem.

I need to be VERY CLEAR that it is her responsibility to keep her animals at home and that if she fails to provide some way to contain the animals within a week, that I will be calling the Macomb County animal control to have the animals removed.

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