It wasn’t supposed to be a meeting about chickens. No, it was supposed to be an opportunity to give input on what changes, if any, need to be made to Section 3 of Asheville’s city code. That ordinance covers things like the licensing, leashing and spaying of animals within the city limits. It also spells out the penalties for having a nuisance animal, and the fact that no more than six animals can live in one household.
But it was the chicken crowd that really took the spotlight, turning out in droves and making up the majority of those who filled the Training Room over the Asheville Police Department on the evening of July 8. Sporting buttons and armed with petitions, they came to argue for less regulation of chicken-raising in the city.
Some wanted to make sure the session stayed focused on those concerns. “Would this meeting have even happened without the chicken issue coming forward?” asked one participant. (The answer, according to the city, is yes.)
Others lamented that early media reports about the upcoming meeting had leaned too hard on the chicken issue, perhaps keeping some residents with other pet concerns at home.
And indeed, Section 3 does address chickens along with other livestock—saying, among other things, that chickens cannot be kept within 100 feet of a neighboring property. Pro-chicken advocates—who champion their cause by touting the cheap eggs and meat these animals provide—want that boundary dropped to 25 feet.
But judging by the input at the meeting, other factors in the chicken equation seem to differ from person to person. Some want chickens limited to 10 per household; others argued for stricter limits. Some want roosters, while others recognize that giving up that particular early-morning alarm system may be a necessary sacrifice to reach a compromise. And what about coops? Do chickens have to remain caged, or can they roam within a fenced yard?
Meanwhile, still others came to oppose an influx of chicken runs in the city, saying they have a right not to live next to a backyard farm.
But the meeting wasn’t all about fowl play: Ranking second on several of the breakout groups’ lists was the question of tethering dogs. Many called for an outright ban on the practice, and some wanted stronger enforcement of noise-ordinance violations involving barking dogs.
If anything, the evening demonstrated the varied attitudes and philosophies among pet owners, with heated debates sometimes erupting about what constitutes proper pet care.
“I know a lot of you are very passionate about some things,” APD Capt. Daryl Fisher said early in the meeting. If anything, that turned out to be an understatement.
Assistant City Attorney Curt Euler said answers may be awhile in coming. First, he and other city staff will have to compile the suggestions and concerns collected at the meeting and see which changes are even possible from an enforcement standpoint. A summary of the concerns brought up at the meeting will eventually be available on the city’s Web site, said Euler.