Wednesday, November 07, 2007


You think you got problems. What if you were living in town somewhere and the neighbors had a couple of horses and a few pigs wondering around the their yard doing what horses and pigs do?

That is the dilemma people living in the town of Alva, Oklahoma are facing.

It's a stinky issue to be sure.

In Alva we're talking about, it is just the guy next door who likes to have some farm animals on hand...for whatever reasons.

Even the Oread Daily doesn't know exactly where to come down here. I'm not sure I'd want a bunch of cows living next door, but I would hate to come down on some rabbits (actually next door to me are some zany neighbors who have turned their property into a natural wildlife preserve...but that's another story).

Now a miniature horse or a pot bellied pig I could live with, but a big old hog might be a bit much to put up with. Although they tell me pigs are clean, so I guess it comes down to how much waste they put to speak.

But then again a recent German study discovered that children who have regular contact with farm animals may be less likely to develop inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) than other children.

Not only that but the study also indicates children who had spent regular amounts of time visiting or living on farms during their first year of life were 50 percent less likely to develop Crohn’s as they got older and 60 percent less prone to ulcerative colitis.

Being exposed to cattle appeared to cut the odds of Crohn’s by 60 percent and colitis by 70 percent.


Anyway not to long ago in the great state of Kansas following the enactment of a county ordinance that prohibited farm animals in the city, some folks who had been keeping horses in the city for resale purposes went to court and argued that they were entitled to continue such use under the state right-to-farm statute.

Don't ask me about "right to farm." Maybe its like "right to life." I just don't know.

Whatever the case, a state appellate court dismissed the suit saying the state right-to-farm statute was inapplicable to the county ordinance since the state statute addresses limitations on nuisance abatement for agricultural activities on farmland. Meaning, that neighbors who come to a nuisance on nearby property may not sue to abate it.

So there.

But hold on their pardner.

No less then the New York Times reported not too long ago:

"City dwellers who raise chickens are springing up around the country. Groups organized on the Internet in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Austin, Tex., are host to chicken-centric social events, and there are dozens of books — a whole new form of chick lit — on raising chickens, including Barbara Kilarski’s “Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs and Other Small Spaces,” and related titles like “Anyone Can Build a Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker,” by Herrick Kimball."

Meanwhile, in Seattle, city Council member Richard Conlin wants to make it legal for Seattleites to keep pygmy goats.

Finally, it is to be noted that something called the Municipal Research and Service Center of Washington points out the keeping of farm animals is generally regulated under zoning, including the number and kinds allowed in urban areas. The underlying premise of most of the restrictions on livestock within urban areas relates to keeping them off public property, controlling noise and smell, and providing for adequate living conditions. Livestock is generally defined to include horses, mules, jackasses, cattle, sheep, llama, goats, and swine.

"...providing for adequate living conditions," I mean what real goat, cow, horse or pig wants to live in a city - full of the dirtiest most dangerous and most obnoxious of all animals - us.

The following is from the Alva Review Courier (Alva, Oklahoma).

Council sidesteps manure problem – temporarily

Emotions ran high on both sides of the issue of banning horses and other livestock from within the city limits.

Since Alva has no ordinance on the books outlawing anything except stallions, stud horses and swine, farm animals in back yards have become a … well, stinky problem, to say the least. That doesn’t even begin to take into consideration the nuisance and health factors involved.

The Alva City Council, for the most part, sidestepped the deepening manure problem by tabling action on the proposed ordinance until the next meeting.

As proposed, the ordinance would have made it unlawful for any person to keep, maintain, or permit or suffer to be maintained any cows, goats, sheep, swine, hogs, horses, shoats, pigs, poultry, rabbits or any miniature or dwarf variety of agriculture animal upon any property or premises within the corporate limits of the City of Alva, except as provided in this (ordinance).

The ordinance would have allowed agricultural animals to remain in areas zoned for agriculture as long as the pen, lot or enclosure was maintained in sanitary condition and not offensive or dangerous to the public. It would have required 1 acre of land for every horse or cow kept in these zoned areas.

Exceptions to the ordinance could be obtained by requesting a variance from the Board of Adjustments.


To obtain an exemption, the livestock owner would have to request a hearing before the Board of Adjustments and pay the fee of $150.

City Inspector Tim Nelson said the process usually involved spending two or three days locating all the surrounding property owners within a 300-foot radius, then giving a 20-day notice for a hearing.

“The $150 fee is not excessive by any means considering the time and effort that goes into the process,” Nelson said.


Jeff Cahoj spoke first in favor of the ordinance. Cahoj presented photos of a neighboring yard containing several horses along with many dogs and their resulting waste.

“My wife and I have been redoing our back yard, and we’re almost done,” he said. “Now we can’t go out and use it because of the horses and the smell. We can’t even open our windows!”

Cahoj asked the council to show them some consideration and change the law.

“I think if every member had the situation I have, you would be standing where I am,” Cahoj said.

Aaron Gottsch explained his dilemma.

“I’m trying to sell my house, and I had some rodeo team people that lived by me that have horses and goats tied up in the front yard. It’s making it really difficult to sell my house right now,” Gottsch said.

Gottsch said when he moved into the neighborhood, there were not farm animals there.

“Now I’ve got four or five houses that have animals,” he said.


Jim Stewart was the first to speak in opposition to the ordinance. Stewart said he keeps one horse on Mill Street, but before he put it there, he asked the neighbors if they objected.

“If you put a law on the smell of a horse, we also need a law on the smell of dogs,” Stewart said. “If we’re going to have laws, let’s make them fit everybody.”

Jim Scribner suggested rather than having an ordinance, why not make it like the storage pods that require permission from all the neighbors.

Mayor Arden Chaffee interjected that “A nuisance is a nuisance wherever it is.”

City Manager Steven Brown said the ordinance would allow exemptions like Scribner was suggesting by going before the Board of Adjustments. If the owner disagreed with the Board of Adjustments, he could protest their decision through the court system.

Yvonne Thilsted also spoke against the ordinance.

“Of course I’m going to stand up for the horses,” Thilsted stated. “I’m a little concerned about people like Mrs. Mathes’ chickens. Are you going to do away with all the chickens in town.

“I’m wondering if we’re going to meet and tell everybody you’re going to have to get your chickens and rabbits out of town.”

Thilsted blamed the city’s generosity for the problem with horses.

“We’ve given scholarships and have the largest rodeo team in history,” Thilsted said. “The people of Alva can’t get boarding at the fair grounds.”

Thilsted proposed making owners get permits for their animals which would require the city inspector and the animal control officer to conduct an annual inspection.


Councilman Bryce Benson asked, “If we pass this ordinance, the people that have had chickens for 50 years, do they have to move them immediately? Do they have to move them, ask for the variance, then move them back?”

City Manager Brown said depending on the council’s wishes, once the owner asked for a variance, they would have until the meeting to move their animals.

Councilman Murl Wilkins said, “We have a health code that we can take care of issues immediately. I’m concerned about someone that has a pet rabbit. $150 is a pretty stiff fee for someone with a pet rabbit.”

Council Trent Goss stated his position succinctly.

“I’m for this ordinance,” Goss said. “If I wanted to live on a farm, I’d go live on a farm. I think it’s ridiculous that we have farm animals in this city.

“I think there’s no reason to allow cattle and horses next to houses. It smells. It’s a public nuisance.” Benson agreed, sort of.

“As a whole, I am for this ordinance myself,” Benson said. “I don’t think we ought to have horses, cows, goats or pigs in back yards. I’m concerned about pet rabbits or chickens that have been here longer than any of us have been. I wonder if there’s any way to waive the fee to have the board of adjustment meet.”

Steve Brown explained the efforts involved in having a hearing for one rabbit or five horses is still the same.

“I don’t think we have a problem with rabbits,” Benson said. “I had three goats and a bunch of geese living beside me for awhile, and I didn’t like it!”

Councilman Monty Pfleider said, “It looks to me like it’s a problem and we need to take care of it on a complaint basis. I think he (the city inspector) ought to inspect what people complain about, not run around looking for anything.”

“Then you’re in favor of having horses in your back yard?” Goss asked.

“No, I’m not,” Pfleider said. “I don’t understand. It’s an ordinance now, how come it hasn’t been enforced?”

Once again it was explained to Pfleider and others that there is no ordinance now. The only ordinance that can be used is the public nuisance or the health code, neither of which have any teeth.


Murl Wilkins moved to table the ordinance until the first council meeting in December. Lehl provided the second.

During the roll call vote, Goss, Meyer, Jordan, Benson, Brown and Pfleider voted no because most favored bringing it back to the floor at the next meeting.

Before a second motion was entertained, Scott Brown asked, “In postponing this ordinance, are we going to enforce the complaints that brought this issue to the table?”

“Yes,” Manager Brown said, “the health issue.”

Pfleider said, “The house on Maple is really a problem.”

Councilman Bruce Meyer said, “I heard someone hit a horse that was loose on Choctaw and did some damage to their vehicle. The rodeo person involved said there was no law against having horses in town so they weren’t liable.

Wilkins made a second motion to table this ordinance until the second meeting of November.

“We can modify this ordinance and come back,” he said.

Lehl again provided the second. Goss voted no. The others voted yes based on the new conditions.

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