ELYRIA — A horse in the backyard, maybe some chickens in a coop or a pair of potbellied pigs in the neighborhood.
When deciding what should be acceptable in Elyria, city officials admitted they didn’t have all the answers. At a sparsely attended meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the possibility of a farm animal ban in the city, it was clear that opinions on the issue vary just as much as the kinds of animals that could end up on a forbidden list.
“I would say the chief concerns with animals that would be considered farm animals are noise, excrement, overcrowding and cruelty to animals,” Law Director Scott Serazin said. “Right now, we do have ordinances to address all of that. Beyond that, there is not a simple answer of, ‘yes or no, certain animals should be banned.’ Cities have tried to ban all kinds of animals. It usually ends up with a lot of newspaper press and people mad at each other.”
There is no guarantee such a law will even make it on the books, but coming off of a highly publicized case where a local woman was forced to give up her potbellied pigs to comply with a nuisance violation and stay out of jail it is clear the conversation has started.
The pigs in question, owned by Tammy Wilson of Boston Avenue, have since been taken to a home in Vermilion to live, but the situation raised the question whether such pets should be allowed in neighborhoods on small lots.
Wilson’s neighbor, Cheryl Welton, has been very vocal with her opinion, especially as it was her complaints of odors coming from Wilson’s property that got the ball rolling on the nuisance violation Wilson faced.
“We have talked a lot about this, but not one time have I had anyone say one thing about a taxpayer or what they have to face when it’s their neighbor,” Welton said Wednesday. “Yes, the pigs are gone, but before it got to that, I had to call every department in the city and come up here so many times because frankly, I would say, we do not in this city enforce the laws. Come up with whatever you want. You can have all the laws you want, but if you are not going to enforce them, it’s not going to matter.”
Welton said it was not so much the pigs, but the manner in which they were owned that was a nuisance. Wilson had been accused of not cleaning up after the animals.
Serazin, who in recent weeks researched the issue, said creating another law won’t stop negligent pet owners.
“Ultimately, it isn’t the animals. It’s the people,” he said.
Serazin said he will do whatever Council wants but does not want the discussion to escalate to levels seen in 2006 when complaints about roosters led to the passage of a highly criticized farm animal ordinance that eventually was repealed.
“Just in case you forgot what happened, then let’s revisit the newspaper articles with all the 4-H kids,” he said.
Councilwoman Donna Mitchell, D-6th Ward and head of the Utilities Committee, said an answer was not going to be found in one meeting and tabled the issue in favor of gathering more information.
“We have ordinances on the book that I think successfully dealt with the pig situation,” she said. “So before we think about taking this further to pass a farm animal ordinance, we have to ask ourselves some questions. Who is going to go out to make sure the ordinance is being followed and what are the punishments we are willing to inflict on our own residents?”
The sentiment was shared by Councilman Jerry McHugh, D-7th Ward, who said he believes the existing nuisance ordinance does a great job of legislating 98 percent of any problems that could arise.
“Generally, it can handle issues that are intolerable like barking dogs or animal droppings,” McHugh said.
“I don’t want someone to have a horse on a postage stamp lot, but I guarantee you if someone is trying that, they are also violating some of our other ordinances that we can use to eradicate the issue without crafting new pieces of legislation,” Serazin said.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.