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Chickens won’t roost in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 28, 2020

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — The city of St. Clair Shores is just that, a city, and as such, prohibits farm animals such as chickens from being kept on residential properties.

But with a growing number of requests from residents, the Animal Care and Welfare Committee did explore changing the ordinance to allow a small number of fowl to be kept by a homeowner.

City Councilman John Caron said in August that the committee already hears appeals from residents with regard to how many dogs they can own — city ordinance prohibits more than three — so he thought that criteria could be developed that would allow them to hear similar appeals from residents who wish to own chickens.

He said at the time that they could, “see how big of a need there would be and, perhaps, an ordinance could come later.”

Warren, Eastpointe, Center Line, Roseville and Clinton Township have begun to allow city chickens over the past few years, with restrictions on the maximum number of birds that can be owned and, typically, prohibitions on the ownership of roosters because of noise.

But after looking into the matter, the committee failed to take any actions recommending the allowance of chickens in St. Clair Shores.

Animal Care and Welfare Committee Chair Diana Rascano said that they followed advice from Macomb County Animal Control Chief Jeff Randazzo, who frequents their meetings, who cited the possibility of diseases from the birds as another reason not to allow them in city limits.

In addition, she said an ordinance is only as good as the enforcement behind it, so it would be more work to check that all the rules were being followed by the owners of the fowl.

“Most of our properties are only 50 feet wide, so you’re pretty much on top of your neighbor,” Rascano said.

Caron, the council liaison to the committee, said in an email that he presented a combination of requirements from other municipalities to the committee and City Council to get their feedback on the requirements. If they had been in agreement, that would have served as guidelines for the committee to grant variances to the animal control ordinances.

But the committee decided that, along with the potential mess, rodent issues and other problems that had previously been cited, there was also the potential for avian influenza. Randazzo told the committee that when there was avian flu in the local geese population in 2015, some Macomb County chicken livestock also had to be destroyed.

Although the committee doesn’t have the final say in the matter, it is a recommending body to City Council, so if it doesn’t make a recommendation to change the ordinance, it is unlikely to change.

“We’re always open, but it was brought up and discussed,” Rascano said. “We’re just trying to think of everybody and what’s in the best interest of the city.”

Randazzo did not return calls for comment before press time.

Rascano said that the committee is also currently debating the merits of allowing groups and businesses in the city to host petting zoos.

She said the discussion was prompted when a local business hosted one in the summer that included horses walking very close to Harper Avenue. What would have happened, she said, if a horse was spooked by a passing vehicle or dashed into the road? She said it is their concern for the safety of the animals and the community that has them considering a change in permission.

“The subject is still being discussed and reviewed because our parks and rec director likes the idea ... of petting zoos,” Rascano said.

The Parks and Recreation Department hosted petting zoos at the St. Clair Shores Farmers Market in 2019.

But Rascano said that there are plenty of other ways for residents to interact with and learn about farm and wild animals without having them exposed in a city environment.

“Most of us on the committee would rather not have them. That’s a continuing hot topic,” she said.

Anyone with opinions about these and any matters related to animals in the city is invited to attend the public meetings of the Animal Care and Welfare Committee. Its next meeting is at 6:30 p.m. April 13 in City Hall, 27600 Jefferson Ave.