My Concerns About Backyard Livestock

(Statement at Denver City Council’s Public Hearing about the “Food Producing Animals” ordinance)


My name is Keith Akers and I live in District 4. I urge a vote against the proposed food producing animals ordinance unless substantial concerns are addressed.

Concern about this ordinance is increasing. Just this past week, the Humane Society of the United States, with over 11 million supporters and substantial local support, sent a letter to the Denver City Council expressing serious concern about the ordinance.  This was not opposition, but serious concerns.

My first concern is the shelter recommendations. The HSUS suggests that Denver follow the Chicken Run Rescue recommendations, which are for 4 square feet of coop space per chicken. The current ordinance has no provisions for coop space at all. As long as a coop is predator-proof and well insulated, the ordinance permits stuffing chickens into as small a coop as is physically possible. This is a license for animal cruelty. Coop space should not be in the rules to be developed later, it should be in the ordinance itself; it’s too important.

Many chicken enthusiasts know very little about how to care for or protect chickens. In Seattle, one knowledgeable activist took the “city chickens” coop tour and found that seven out of the ten coops she saw were not adequately protected against predators. Two out of the ten actually reported losing chickens to predators. Problems with mistreatment of livestock seldom creates a complaint, so cities have no way of tracking this. Who’s going to complain? The chicken, perhaps?

The second concern is about enforcement. The HSUS says, and I agree, “we recommend requiring permits and annual license fees for individual animals.” Otherwise, “there is no way to relate a license to individual animals or to tell, on the basis of licensing, how many livestock animals are being kept in Denver at any time or over any period of time.” Accountability is very important; I could almost support this bill if this element of accountability was included alone.

The third concern is about dwarf goats. Dwarf goats are susceptible to diseases which can be transmitted to humans, such as soremouth. Getting milk from goats requires breeding the females and thus there will likely be an eventual goat overpopulation problem. Finally, goats are social animals and the space afforded dwarf goats may be inadequate; a single dwarf goat restricted to 130 square feet is likely to be a very unhappy goat. The remedy: delete goats from the ordinance entirely.

Don’t create a license for cruelty. I recommend rejection of the FPA ordinance unless it is substantially modified.

[Note: this is pretty close to what I actually said, and certainly what I wanted to say, but I may have put in some “ad-lib” comments, so this isn’t an exact transcript.  I have other concerns as well, this is just what I could fit into three minutes.]