Mike McKibbin

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June 27, 2012
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Case dropped in Rifle chicken dispute

Despite the dismissal of her municipal case, Jo Ann Dodea of Rifle thinks she may have more to fight for in her battle to keep chickens in her yard.

"People are so used to being walked all over," Dodea said. "I think we have to start to stand up when we think someone has done something wrong. It's not right to have the police come on your property and abuse you at any time. That's what I feel happened."

Dodea, a retired police officer, ran afoul of a neighbor when she bought 22 chickens in Grand Junction and brought them to her home at the end of March. The neighbor complained and several days of phone calls, visits and a brief relocation of the chickens out of the city occurred, leading up to her May 31 arrest 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 initially claimed five officers were present when she was arrested and filed a complaint with the police department on June 4. Recently, she said there were more likely three, plus a supervising sergeant, who visited briefly during her arrest.

Dodea said she wanted to have chickens to help her get over the March death of her 25-year-old daughter and keep bugs out of an organic garden.

All charges against Dodea were dismissed by municipal court Judge Victor Zerbi on June 13. Prosecuting attorney Angela Roff said on Tuesday that Dodea was never charged with having the chickens.

Her five offenses were for five geese that were present in her yard on the night of her arrest, Roff said. Dodea had removed the chickens the day before, at the request of Rifle Community Service Officer Brittney Koley. Dodea soon after returned the chickens to her yard, due to lack of adequate fencing and other measures to keep the chickens safe from predators.

Roff said Dodea's boyfriend, Antonio Torres, who said the geese belonged to him, paid his fine, so the case was dismissed. Dodea had until last Monday, June 25, to move her chickens elsewhere.

When Dodea acquired the chickens, Rifle's municipal code allowed two chickens or ducks to be kept by single-family residences. Dodea's home is zoned multi-family.

Since then, City Council has given initial approval to a new animal control ordinance that removes zoning and replaces it with a conditional use permit process. The new ordinance also increases the allowed number of female chickens and ducks combined to 10. Council will consider final approval of the changes on Monday.

"This whole thing could have been avoided if they'd just given me more time to move the chickens," Dodea said.

Dodea said she had hoped to be allowed to keep the chickens until the new animal control ordinance takes affect.

"I was going to take it to trial and I still might pursue a wrongful arrest suit," Dodea said.

She also planned to seek copies of audio and video recordings of her arrest and other contacts with police.

"That will prove what I'm saying is true," Dodea added.

Dodea said she had talked to her former employers in the Pitkin County Sheriff's Department and Carbondale Police Department about her arrest.

"They both said they thought they would have told their officers there are better things to spend the taxpayers money on," she said.

Dodea said how far she takes her fight depends "on how much satisfaction I get."

"If I get those recordings and it proves the (police) reports are inaccurate and they were just out to get me, I want those people out of town," Dodea said. "I believe in fighting for what's fair and I want my daughters to be proud of me."

"I thought I was done with policing," Dodea added. "But I guess I'm not done fighting for justice."

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The Post Independent Updated Jun 27, 2012 04:52PM Published Jun 27, 2012 04:50PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.