Five times as many chickens as currently allowed per single-family home in Rifle would be permitted under a proposed new animal control ordinance set to be considered by the City Council.
Ten chickens or ducks combined could be kept at a single-family residence, compared to the current limit of two. Multi-family residences currently are prohibited from having any chickens, ducks, geese or other fowl.
The issue comes after the May 31 arrest of retired police officer Jo Ann Dodea for possession of domestic fowl. A police report states that when officers arrived, they attempted to serve a citation to Dodea. She refused to acknowledge the promise to appear in court and was arrested. Dodea was released from the police department later that night.
Dodea claimed five officers were present when she was arrested and filed a complaint with the police department on June 4.
Police Chief Daryl Meisner said on Monday that every citizen complaint is investigated but could not comment on any details.
Meisner did say there were not five officers present when Dodea was arrested.
"There were two initially and their supervisor came by briefly," Meisner said.
At City Council's June 6 meeting, Dodea said she was confused over whether she would be allowed to keep the 22 chickens she had in her yard. She earlier said city employees told her she could have the chickens, which she said could help her get over the March death of her 25-year-old daughter and keep bugs out of an organic garden.
"I was told that since I rent rooms upstairs, I can't have these animals," Dodea said. "I think 10 would be fine with me. These should be fine with anyone."
City Attorney Jim Neu proposed the ordinance be further amended to create a conditional use permit process. That would base a property's eligibility on whether or not chickens, ducks or other fowl are legal on that property's use, not its zoning, Neu said.
City Councilwoman Jennifer Sanborn said she wasn't sure the proposed changes presented to council were fair in Dodea's case, but added, "We might be opening a can of worms" if they tried to address it.
The proposed regulations would prohibit roosters, require chicken enclosures to protect the birds from predators and address waste and odors, which would also be enforceable violations under the city's general nuisance provisions.
Neu told council the revisions in the proposed code remove "color" from the definition of pot-bellied pigs.
Cruelty or neglect of animals in the current animal code calls for a mandatory 10-day jail sentence on the second or subsequent offense, while the proposed regulations would treat any instance of animal neglect or cruelty as a class A offense. Conceivably, the same sentence could result, Neu wrote in a message to council, but the municipal judge is given discretion to impose an appropriate sentence for each incident.