It could soon be easier to become a backyard chicken farmer — and be legal to become a reptile owner — in Minneapolis.
Those changes are among dozens of tweaks to animal care and control ordinances now being considered by the City Council. If approved next month, the new codes would expand the types of pets that are legal in the city, eliminate a requirement that would-be chicken owners get signatures of support from their neighbors and help reduce the number of animals euthanized at the city’s shelter. Other revisions range from updated licensing fees to a ban on the use of bullhooks, the sharp tool used by elephant handlers in traveling circuses.
During a public hearing on Monday, officials said the proposals were shaped in more than 50 community meetings with residents, animal rescue groups and animal control workers from other cities. Erica Prosser, a policy and project coordinator with the city’s Regulatory Services Department, said the revisions reflect the expanding role the city plays in animal-related matters.
“When this ordinance was written, we were dogcatchers, essentially,” she said.
The update comes with new standards for the care of animals who end up at the shelter. It defines policies for the use of euthanasia — specifying that animals can only be euthanized if they cannot be placed in homes — and requires a check of the registry of organizations willing to take animals before choosing that option.
Caroline Hairfield, deputy director of the city’s animal control, said her agency is working closely with several outside agencies and is reducing the use of euthanasia. No animals have been euthanized for space reasons so far this year. “We work so closely with so many rescue groups we don’t often have a lot of animals up for adoption here anymore,” she said.
Roosters by permit
Outside the shelter, the revised ordinances will come with some changes for people looking to put a chicken coop in their yard. The city will no longer require signatures from neighbors of chicken owners but will mandate a special permit for roosters, will update care requirements for poultry and fowl, and also increase its education opportunities for bird owners.
Rob Czernik, who has owned chickens for more than six years, said he’s pleased the changes could help others get some birds of their own. He said the chickens have provided a way to get to know his East Phillips neighbors, who often come to see the chickens and volunteer to take care of them when he’s out of town.
“I think it will be really good for the city to start making it a little easier to access for folks,” he said.
Rabbit owners will no longer need a license if the changes are approved. And for the first time, the city will issue permits for pet reptiles and amphibians in the city. Residents may own “nonpoisonous and nontoxic” species, including nonvenomous snakes — under 4 feet without a permit, and with a permit for larger snakes. Other animals that will require a permit include lizards longer than 3 feet and turtles with a shell larger than 10 inches. Crocodiles and alligators are still illegal, although Hairfield said some showed up at the shelter last year.
The update will provide more specific requirements for the treatment and care of animals, including adequate food, water and shelter, appropriate space and exercise and access to veterinary care. It also defines more specifically what constitutes a nuisance when dogs are barking or roosters crowing. (The noise must take place for 15 minutes between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. or for 10 minutes between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.)
Council Member Andrew Johnson, who led the work on the revised codes, said he expects Minneapolis’ standards will become a model for other cities.