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Ordinance clarifies which animals may not stray unwanted onto other property

Residents who find animals they don't own and don't want on their property will have more recourse next month when a new version of the town's miscellaneous offenses ordinance takes effect.

The Town Council on Oct. 11, 2017 approved amendments to the ordinance, giving more "teeth" to regulations governing animals wandering on to property without permission of the property owner.

The amendment to the animal control chapter of the ordinance extends current prohibitions on wandering horses, cows, oxen, swine, goats or other grazing animals to all animals; and further extends it to private as well as public property.

The prohibition does not include dogs, which are covered in a separate chapter of the ordinance. And, as councilors pointed out after a public hearing Oct. 11, it is not meant to include bees.

"I definitely never thought bees were animals," said Councilor Caitlin Jordan, a member of the ordinance subcommittee that drafted the amendments, in response to concerns raised by Crescent View Avenue resident Scott Irving. Irving, who said he keeps bees, said he believed the amendments as written would apply to his hive, as well as to homing pigeons and to any of a number of species not so easy to contain. He recommended instead listing specific animals covered by the ordinance.

The rewrite, however, was a response to complaints about chickens wandering onto neighboring properties. The problem with listing every animal covered by the ordinance is that some may be inadvertently left out, Jordan explained. Bees kept for honey or other purposes would likely be covered under state right-to-farm regulations, which would trump town ordinances, Jordan said.

Jamie Garvin, council chair, went further. "The salient part of the wording here is 'without permission of the property owner' so I think that regardless of what grouping or classification of animals we're talking about, ... the benefit is to the property owner who is aggrieved," Garvin said.