Domestic livestock prompts complaints


The Town of Kearny is considering drafting a law to deal with an emergence of entrepreneurial home farming activities.

This phenomenon has manifested itself in the form of some residents raising chickens, rabbits and pigeons in their yards.

Neighbors’ complaints have brought this unwelcome development to the attention of town officials, including the health department which has dispatched a public health investigator to check out the conditions.

Town Health Director/Health Officer Kenneth Pincus said he has offered recommendations to the town administration about possible amendments to the local health code to address the issue and provide a mechanism for enforcement.

Reportedly, some public health nuisance complaints have been filed but, because these are considered “open” cases, still subject to review, the health department is reluctant to provide details at this time.

Town Administrator/Construction Official Michael Martello said that members of the Town Council’s ordinance committee, led by Councilwoman Susan McCurrie, will be consulting with Pincus to develop an ordinance “as time permits.”

Martello said there are four locations “spread out around town” where residents have in their yards, “chicken coops, as well as pigeons, plus rabbits being raised.”

“We’re trying to figure out how to deal with it,” he said. “There used to be regulations in our ordinance book [possibly dating from the time when there were working farms in Kearny] but for whatever reason, they’re not there now.”

The town does have laws on the books that cover “property maintenance” issues, but it needs something more specific to deal with potential threats to public health, Martello said.

“Obviously,” he added, “the concern is disease,” that could spread from livestock to humans.

McCurrie said the ordinance committee will be reviewing the town’s existing laws in response to concerns voiced by local health officials who “saw some holes [in those laws] they’d like to fill,” particularly in light of “how [raising animals in residential settings] impacts on neighbors.”

The challenge here, said McCurrie, is finding the appropriate language that will not stifle the trend for “green initiative, organic sustainability” – like the Kearny Community Garden – that has found favor among many local residents.

“I think this phenomenon of people raising their own chickens and getting eggs that way comes out of that idea,” the councilwoman said, “but the only caveat to whether we can find some type of balance that stops short of a rigid prohibition of this activity is that in Kearny, residential back yards are so close together it makes it tough to control.”

– Ron Leir

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