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Petitioning City of Gaithersburg, Maryland and 8 others

Lift Rooster Ban

President Hoover promised a chicken in every pot. Now pot is being legalized but pet chickens are being taken away.

"I don't want chickens myself, but I see no reason to prohibit Aaron and his family from having chickens, or anyone else for that matter." If this sounds like you, please read on.

I'm not advocating noise pollution. I'm not asking you to like chickens.

I am asking you to just say "no" to needless laws. I'm asking you to say "no" to abuse of process. I'm asking you to say "no" to hate.

My name is Aaron Rosenzweig. Our family moved to the City of Gaithersburg, Maryland because the city allows chickens. Unfortunately, the rooster ban makes this difficult. It is clear that something is wrong with our rules and regulations as well as our enforcement of them. This must be rectified.

We live on a corner lot with no backyard. So we did something new and bold, we made a super coop on our front lawn (please watch the video). This was totally in compliance with our city codes and we are not in an HOA community. The "Kardashi Hens" with their "Cluckingham Palace" quickly became community pets. We made so many wonderful friends.

If you are going to do something, go all out, do it right and share it.

This act of courage and community spirit unfortunately ruffled the feathers of David and Faith Roseman at 6 Thorburn Road. It infuriated them so much that Mr. Roseman would drive by when children were playing with the chickens, photograph them, give them the middle finger, then drive off. Thirty minutes to an hour later, Animal Control would arrive because the Kardashi Hens were "at large."

Our pet chickens have never been “at large.” They are always under supervision. According to our city codes, companion animals are allowed on my lawn and allowed on the sidewalk as long as I am out there with them.

Mr. Roseman's actions are not against the law. What is against the law is to own a rooster, or is it a crowing rooster?

Lisa Holland, the director of Animal Control, gave me the city codes on official pink paper. The codes said:

Section 4-7 Regulations for keeping domestic fowl.
It shall be unlawful for any person to keep a crowing rooster within two hundred feet of any inhabited dwelling.

Any reasonable person would agree, that city code sounds pretty darn fair. Oops, I'm sorry, those were the laws before 2010. The city handed me outdated codes. The codes now simply ban roosters period.

What happened in 2010? The McClure family attacked the Mittelstadt family because they had four hens (no roosters). The McClure's just didn't like chickens and wanted them banned. A heated public hearing ensued. So what did our city do? They kept the laws nearly the same but decided to ban roosters. Just to try to make it feel like the McClure's voice was heard.

I'm sorry, ladies and gentleman, but the United States does not negotiate with unreasonable nations. Neither should our city negotiate with unreasonable people.

Don't get me wrong, in lifting the rooster ban I'm not advocating allowing any animal to assault a neighborhood with obnoxious noise. I just don't want animals to be taken away when they aren't creating a problem.

It's not so easy to distinguish a rooster from a hen:

Is that a rooster or a hen?

The mayor agrees. Our rooster ban is not necessary:

Jud Ashman - Blog post 2010/2011

Jud Ashman - video 2015

Rooster crowing is 90 decibels. That is the same as a dog barking, the same as a lawn mower. If citizens are respecting their neighbors, great. If they are creating a noise violation, level the field. Apply the same rules that we do for dogs to roosters. Apply the same rules to all animals.

It's about pet equality. Don't give any pet more or less rights than another.

Lisa Holland, the director of Animal Control, states for the record that there has never been any crowing at my home:

Lisa Holland speaks

So what happened with Mr. Roseman, his photography, vulgar finger, and the visits from Animal Control? Soon Jorge Esmieu, an animal control officer, got tired of visiting us. I don't blame him; however, instead of dealing with Mr. Roseman he got a bright idea!

"That is a rooster, I take him now." Wow he sees a rooster but does not hear one. I ask him to interview the neighbors to see if there was crowing, he refused. I asked him to look at the codes his superviser handed to me, he refused. What he did do was call another officer by the name of Sylvester Ferguson. They conversed in private then Jorge said: "I don't know why I didn't see this before, you have two roosters, shall I take them now or get a third opinion?"

Note: I have signatures from 12 households that they enjoyed our birds on the front lawn. I have signatures from my four next door neighbors that there was no crowing. Their names addresses and phone numbers have been shared with city officials.

Luckily Sylvester calmed Jorge down and said "Let's give them some time" - They told me the only way we could keep our birds is if we kept them inside our house 24/7 or if we built a large privacy fence.

So we built that fence and in doing so removed the birds our neighbors loved. They were no longer community pets. Inconceivably, while the fence was being built, we still got visits from Jorge and he continued to threaten to take the birds.

When all of this happened, the director of Animal Control (Lisa Holland) was on a much needed holiday. A week after she returned I gave her a call, hoping to move forward. When I asked her why her department was being used as a tool for harassment she said "We've been used for much worse." When I asked what that meant she asked another question "Have you been visited by child services yet?" She was telling me that in the City of Gaithersburg, abuse of process is not only common, it is accepted. People can say anything about anyone and cause them much grief and hassle.

I cannot accept any of this, can you? The manipulation, the rudeness, the status quo. It must change. Join with me!

The City of Gaithersburg must improve our codes in the following ways:

1) Lift the rooster ban because it can be hard to distinguish hens from roosters. Put back the language from before 2010. The people who originally wrote the codes knew what they were doing. Chickens were more common back then and chickens are not any different today. Changing the law in 2010 laughs in the face of their wisdom. Add a phrase that collars and surgery can be effective in controlling rooster volume.
Learn more at: http://www.liftroosterban.com/

2) Only households within 200 feet of the chickens should be able to raise a complaint. Acknowledging that there are some citizens with unjustifiable hate towards chickens, we must write this into law. You might not like someone's choice of pet but if they aren't impacting your quality of life, you should not have a leg to stand on. Only close neighbors could conceivably be adversely affected by chickens.

3) If the chicken's home is by all other means within code, it shall be illegal to remove heating from their water and coop when extension cords are used safely with waterproof connectors. Yes, the city tried to make us remove the heat during winter. Can you believe it?

4) Remove the 6 chicken limit. We have no limits for dogs, cats, rabbits, so why do we limit chickens? For all other animals the codes are general and say as long as the animals are kept clean and healthy the city will not impose a limit. For chickens, they limit us to 6. The first question when Animal Control visits you is not about your chickens' health, it's how many you have. Ten chickens make the same amount of manure as one dog. But dog manure is toxic, chicken manure you can put on your vegetable garden. Pet equality is the goal. The great city of New York does not count chickens, why do we?

5) Freedom to walk and share like any other animal. Chickens should be allowed use of sidewalks and public areas just like dogs. So long as their owner is nearby there is no reason they can’t be granted the same freedoms. If my chicken enjoys eating the fruits of the bradford pear tree that land on the sidewalk, why can’t my chicken do so? I shovel the snow for your dogs, why can't my chickens enjoy it too?

6) Relax the rules on where coops may be. No matter how small someone’s lot may be, they should be allowed to raise chickens. This should not be a luxury for homes with large lots. Chickens do not require much space, they don’t make much noise, they don’t smell. Runoff is not an issue as chicken manure is good for use in plants meant for human consumption. The same is NOT true for dogs which harbor roundworm in their manure which can cause blindness in humans. Dog and cat manure is not safe for gardens which produce fruits and vegetables but chicken manure is safe and is sold expressly for that purpose. At the very least, if we kept the rules for distance the same but added there phrase “unless next door neighbors sign in writing that they do not object.”

7) Firm anti-nuisance stance. The "cry wolf" law. It is not right for disgruntled citizens to misuse city resources in vain. They are harassing the city and enabling the city to harass hard working citizens. For people who call in with unfounded claims they must receive a $250 fine for each incident. We don’t allow bullies in our schools, no longer shall we allow bullies in our community. Imagine if for every phone call the city representative said “Ok, we will investigate this claim but if we find it to be false you will receive a $250 citation. Do you still want us to investigate?”

8) Firm anti-bully stance. The "eager beaver" law. It is not right for city officials to tell citizens they’ve violated a law without having in hand the law in writing which was violated and explain it to the citizen. Far too many times city officials knock on our doors, don’t understand what their are saying, then make false judgements. If someone has broken a law, shouldn’t they be shown in writing what it was? Shouldn’t they be able to ask questions? Shouldn’t they receive a copy to refer to? Citizens should be entitled to $250 every time city officials break protocol with the intent to bully and manipulate.

Let’s take a high moral ground. Let’s make decisions that are clearly right. Let’s entice intelligent families to flock to our city with rules that enhance our freedoms and quality of life.

Thank you.

Learn more at:
http://www.liftroosterban.com/

This petition was delivered to:
  • City of Gaithersburg, Maryland
  • Mayor
    Jud Ashman
  • Council Member
    Ryan Spiegel
  • Council Member
    Cathy Drzyzgula
  • Council Member
    Neil Harris
  • Council Member
    Henry F. Marraffa, Jr.
  • Council Member
    Michael A. Sesma
  • City Manager
    Tony Tomasello
  • Robert Wu


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