Thursday, July 8, 2010

8 July 1920: Police Jurisdiction Over Roosters Disputed

On this day in 1920, page 7 of the Athens Banner brought to attention this dispute on Pulaski Street:

Pulaski Street Is Disturbed By Early Crowing of Rooster

Family Calls Upon Police Department To Stop Disorder; Chief Says It Has No Jurisdiction.

The jurisdiction of the police department of the city of Athens over Pulaski street roosters was brought into question yesterday afternoon and will, it was stated at police court, probably be placed before council at its next meeting.

The cause of the legal point being brought into question was a hurry call to police headquarters answered yesterday afternoon by Patrolman Nelms. He was summoned to a Pulaski street home, the name of whose owner he refused to disclose when questioned yesterday, and informed that a neighbor's roosters were waking up the family at too early an hour since the summer days have brought dawn at 4:30 o'clock in the morning.

Patrolman Nelms has, in his years of police service, been called upon frequently to settle delicate technicalities of the law on the spur of the moment, but the Pulaski street complaint nonplussed him. He referred the complaining parties to the sanitary department or Sheriff Jackson and assured them that the City Council had not authorized the police department to control Athens roosters.

Chief of Police Henry Beusse suggested yesterday afternoon that other Athens people who are annoyed by early crowing roosters might petition City Council to pass a rooster-muzzling ordinance, but that until some official action was taken, the police department has no jurisdiction over the matter.

Captain of Detectives Seagraves said the call yesterday to stop "disorderly conduct" among the city's barnyard population was the first of its kind he could remember in all his years of service.

Neither the newspaper nor City Council Minutes indicate whether this issue was resolved in 1920, but it is an issue that is still relevant on Pulaski Street and in the rest of the city today. Currently, it is illegal in Athens to keep chickens on less than an acre of land in residential areas, but many people keep chickens, as pets and for eggs, despite the law.

In 2008, Commissioner Kelly Girtz, a resident of Pulaski Street, proposed changing the law to allow people to raise chickens in their backyard. He believed that because residents were keeping chickens anyway, it would be a good idea to regulate the practice for the purposes of public health and safety of both the area residents and the chickens. Even the Athens Banner-Herald agreed that such a law would be a sensible reaction to the situation, but the Athens-Clarke County Commission did not support the idea.

This March, HB 842 passed out of the Georgia House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, but even with some changes, was not supported by local governments, who balked at state laws overriding local ordinances. Commissioner Girtz plans to revisit urban farming on the Athens Commission in 2011.

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