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Backyard Farm Animals: You Need A Permit For That Cow

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Amid a growing number of complaints, Columbus Public Health plans to hold a public hearing tonight to look at possible changes to the way backyard farm animals are regulated within city limits.

The Health Department's Luke Jacobs says right now only 74 people hold a permit to keep farm animals on their property.

Jacobs says a decision is expected in December.

The public meeting is scheduled for this afternoon at 5:30 at Columbus Public Health at 240 Parsons Avenue.

The text below is an automated transcript of the interview, please excuse all errors.

Marilyn Smith: Out of a city of nearly a million people that's not so many.

Luke Jacobs: Right, I mean we recognize that this is again the tip of the iceberg, and what we think we've done is created a set of rules and regulations that is not overly burdensome, and that would help bring people into the fold and and understand that we're there to be a partner in them and doing this on a healthy and safe way.

MS: What does the permit currently require?

LJ: Well, it currently requires a lot of different components, depending on what kind of animals you want to keep. You know we have published standards for how to keep these animals. Typically, it surrounds designing the coop in a way that's not going to lot of rodents to enter. It's going to be ensuring that you can demonstrate that you can handle the animals properly and with proper care, not create a welfare issue for the animals, and show that you're really going to manage the waste from those animals to an extent that's not going to cause a kind of public nuisance or an environmental health effect.

MS: Now you mentioned a coop. That certainly implies chickens for sure. Is that the most common animal that is being kept?

LJ: Absolutely. All reads that we get is that chickens and other kind of fowl are the bulk of the clients.

MS: In terms of this regulation, will you know at the end of the day we recognize that and we've written specific standards into this proposed regulation that would help provide some clarity to those who are making application to be able to see what needs to be done specifically within the code? Presumably, the number of complaints is up. What kinds of complaints are you getting from people in general?

LJ: It's just around the fact that people have the chickens, and some people sent a mixed bag. Some people are really into the urban farming and others are not, so you know for the most part the complaints aren't really specific around chickens and involve a health issue related to the keeping of the chickens. It's just that the chickens are being kept. We do get complaints though around roosters and the noise that the Roosters will make. So that is one specific kind of item that we typically get or that we will get in terms of our complaints.

MS: Well I live in the middle of the city and when I first moved in my house there was a rooster down the street. It was like an alarm clock everyday, it would go off at about five o'clock in the morning but you can't keep them quiet. So what can you do?

LJ: Given that fact we've actually made a proposal on this regulation of the keeping of roosters on residential properties not going to be allowed is going to be prohibited for that reason that they create. Just by their nature a level of disturbance in the community that we think is unwarranted and unjustified, so we've actually written in that this proposal is the animals like roosters are not going to be allowed on residential properties, if and when the board help decides the pass this regulation.

MS: What kind of changes are you proposing?

LJ: So in general, I mean, the biggest changes we're proposing is that we're actually taking what was a very broad regulation before this proposal and we're adding some very specific detail into the regulations to again provide a level of clarity for those that read it. It is about what they need to do in order to be able to keep these animals in a safe and sanitary way. What we call codifying the standards is one thing that we're doing, and we're also adding in a component around the annual renewal of a permit which is a change of kind of a paradigm shift from what we've done thus far, and all that would entail. An annual kind of inspection if you will, to ensure the permit conditions are the same as they were and that they're being maintained in a sanitary condition. Those are the two main changes, there's also a fee now being proposed that the board will consider to try to offset some of the work that we do, given the increase in resources that we're having to use for investigating these issues and taking people through an application process.

MS: And will this effect parent permit holders?

LJ: Yes. I mean the current permit holders would have to make application for renewal of their permit and there would be a fee attached to that renewal.

MS: So it sounds to me is though that there must be a lot of people keeping chickens, for example, who are not permitted.

LJ: Sure. Yeah, I mean I think that's a fair assumption to make, and again, what we're hoping is that by using the regulation as a means to speak to people clearly about what's required, we can bring more people into the fold, in terms of doing this the right way and making the application for a permit, and helping us walk them through the process by which this can be done in a safe and sanitary way.

MS: Luke Jacobs of Columbus Public Health thank you so much.

LJ: Thank you.