Rabbits run rampant? Carbondale continues discussing meat bunnies rules

Matt Kennedy holds two baby rabbits at his house in Carbondale.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Rabbits will likely run through Carbondale trustees’ minds for a while longer, as the town debates whether meat rabbits should be left on farms or are a fit for the town’s funky, sustainable character.

The board of trustees spent nearly an hour Tuesday discussing a draft ordinance to raise the number of allowable rabbits on town properties above the current limit of three.

The rabbit issue came up late in 2019, after Carbondale resident and chef Matt Kennedy was cited for having well over the allowable number of rabbits on his Sopris Avenue lot.

“I started all of this with the problems that I caused with my rabbits. I had no intention of doing so when I started the project that I started at my house, so I’ll apologize for that again,” Kennedy said Tuesday.

But he does want the rabbit limitations raised so he can continue raising rabbits, which he says is one of the most sustainable meats available. Kennedy, who faces fines for violating the current rabbit limit, has also sold rabbit meat to area restaurants.

The first draft of the ordinance, prepared by trustee Erica Sparhawk, raises the rabbit limit to 15 adults, and no more than 30 total rabbits at any given time. That allows for rabbits to be harvested on a regular basis (rabbits are typically slaughtered for meat at around 3 months old) while younger rabbits mature.

The draft is modeled on the chicken ordinance language, but the trustees decided to consider another option: Tying the number of allowable rabbits to square footage.

The preamble to the ordinance should would note that allowing rabbits for noncommercial meat could encourage local food production and possibly attract a local slaughter facility in commercial zones.

It is also “one way to maintain our small-town character and the desire to keep Carbondale funky,” according to Sparhawk’s letter about the ordinance.

Three community members, who identified themselves as neighbors or within walking distance of Kennedy’s hutches, spoke against raising the limit.

“Who does this benefit, and who does it not?” Russ Criswell said in comments to the board. “As an adjacent property owner, it does not benefit me,” he said.

Both Kennedy and Brett Meredith said there are more people who would try raising rabbits if it were allowed.

“Carbondale wants this,” Meredith said. “Try it out, see if it works. It worked for me. Rabbits are clean, they’re quiet, they’re cute, and they taste good,” he said, adding that 30 rabbits is a good limit.

But several trustees balked at the idea of 30 rabbits on one lot.

“30 rabbits is a lot of rabbits, whether they’re babies or adults, that’s a lot of rabbits in one resident’s yard,” trustee Marty Silverstein said.

Mayor Dan Richardson advised that, while Kennedy brought up changing the law, the idea’s popularity could multiply like rabbits.

“Matt admits it was because of his rabbits is why we’re talking about this, but by opening it up to the policy we could have 20, 50 rabbit farms in town,” Richardson said. “Because we agreed to talk about it, I’m willing to have another meeting to try and get it right,” he added.

Sparhawk said she would look at rabbit ordinances in other communities, like Portland, Ore., that have variable limitations depending on available square footage.

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