Archive for Thursday, February 9, 2006

Birds run afoul of law

Basehor pet owner cited for ordinance violation

February 9, 2006

It may be a mystery whether the chicken or the egg came first, but it's no secret which isn't welcome in Basehor.

After what was quite possibly the most unusual 45 minutes of debate ever heard inside City Hall, city officials reluctantly denied a Basehor resident's plea to keep a chicken and rooster as household pets.

Though the story is indeed unusual -- at one point a spectator uttered the word "unbelievable" -- at its core is a heartwarming tale of a parent fighting to keep his daughter's pets.

On Monday, Victor Dietz, who lives in a duplex on Parallel Road near 155th Street, and his girlfriend, Antoaneta Iovkova, told council members about their pets.

For the last year, Dietz said, they have kept a chicken and rooster, which they've owned since birth, as pets for Dietz's daughter, who stays at the Basehor home periodically.

The couple, like the child, have grown fond of the birds.

"When they die, they're going to get a burial," Dietz said. "They're not going to get eaten."

Dietz said the animals are mostly kept inside a garage or in a portable mesh wire cage outside. While inside, diapers purchased over the Internet are fastened to the animals to keep them from dirtying the home, he said.

A device also is placed on the rooster to keep the noise level down, he added.

The animals' keeper read to council members this statement that he said was from a neighbor: "Vic's chickens are not a problem next to us at all."

Basehor Police Chief Terry Horner, who recommended against granting a variance that would allow the family to keep the pets, said police have not received any complaints about the birds.

Horner said he stumbled onto the birds while out on another police call. He went to the Dietz home and "reminded him of the ordinance saying chickens are prohibited."

Some council members said they sympathized with Dietz's plight and struggled with the decision to evict the birds from their Basehor quarters.

"I'm torn both ways ... and I can't believe I am," council president John Bonee said. He told Dietz: "You've got a good argument. If anybody was capable of making it, you did it."

Though a vote was not taken, council members reached consensus against granting a variance to Dietz.

An animal control officer served Dietz with a citation Tuesday, notifying him that he was violating the animal control ordinance, which prohibits the possession of fowl within city limits.

He is scheduled to appear Feb. 14 in Municipal Court, where he will enter a plea. Should he plead not guilty, the case would be set for trial in March.

A spokesman for the police department said Wednesday that the birds would be allowed to stay at the home until Dietz's court date. Then a judge will decide whether they have to be removed.

Monday night, Iovkova said the couple was willing to contest the citation.

"Oh, yeah, we're willing," Iovkova said.

That someone would take such measures to protect an animal like a chicken or rooster may, at first, seem surreal. However, just this week an example rolled across national news wires that typified the lengths some will go to protect beloved animals.

An Associated Press story posted on Wednesday reported -- albeit under a label marked "offbeat news" -- that a retired nurse in Arkadelphia, Ark., saved her brother's chicken by administering "mouth to beak resuscitation." The fowl, named Boo Boo because it scares easily, was found floating face-down in the family's pond, according to the report.

"I breathed into its beak and its dadgum eyes popped open," Marian Morris, a retired CPR told the AP.

Dietz said Monday night that the affection his family has toward the birds isn't any more unusual than what another pet owner has for a dog or cat.

"As long as they are domesticated ... these chickens are like cats and dogs," Dietz said.

"These are pets," he added. "They're loved. There is love involved."

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