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Backyards into Barnyards, Again 

June 13, 2011

(Statement at Denver City Council's Public Hearing about the "Food Producing Animals" ordinance)

My name is Kate Lawrence, and I live in District 4. This year marks 40 years that I have lived in Denver, and I love the beauty and quality of Denverís neighborhoods. That quality will be compromised if the FPA ordinance passes, and here are some of my concerns.

We already have predators in our neighborhoods, such as foxes and coyotes, and their numbers will increase if we have chickens in our urban backyards. Having more predators puts cats and small dogs as well as livestock at greater risk. We would hope that chicken owners will provide predator-proof enclosures, but we canít count on it--even longtime, experienced chicken owners lose them to predators, as happened a few years ago at a CSA farm I joined. Losing chickens to predators wonít be reported to Animal Control, nor will neglect, unless extreme. Proponents of the ordinance say that in other cities chicken-keeping generates few complaints, but problems like these will not be reported.

Most people view chickens and goats very differently than they do cats and dogs. As the ordinance title "Food-Producing Animals" suggests, they believe the purpose of a chicken or goat is to provide food for humans, that these animals exist not for their own sake, but to be exploited by humans. This arrogant attitude can lead to cruelty--when these animals become sick, owners may not want to spend money on veterinary care as they would for a dog or cat, and the animal will suffer. First-time owners may not understand that chickens are unable to tolerate Denverís cold winter temperatures; those chickens may suffer from exposure. Or when hens become too old to lay eggs, their owners may want to dispose of them and get young productive hens. Other unwanted animals will be roosters mistakenly included among shipments of young hens, and the male babies born to dairy goats.

All these: the sick, the old, the unwanted males, will likely be neglected, abandoned at shelters, or--slaughtered, either onsite in violation of the FPA ordinance, or passed along to be slaughtered elsewhere. Due to the greatly increased numbers of abandoned chickens in cities that have adopted similar ordinances, a nationwide coalition of animal sanctuaries compiled a statement you can read online that urges citizens to discourage city governments from becoming zoned for backyard chickens. Letís keep our current permit system, which allows, but doesnít encourage, livestock raising.

People who want to obtain eggs and dairy products that are locally produced, from humanely raised animals, can do so by supporting CSAs and other small farmers around the perimeter of the metro area. For example, the CSA I mentioned brings eggs into Denver to convenient neighborhood distribution points. This is a much better option than turning our urban backyards into barnyards.

For these reasons and others, I urge you to reject the FPA ordinance.