My name is Melissa Aniskewicz. Last year I discovered my hidden passion for chickens. My family and I decided it would be fun for all of us to raise a flock since we eat a lot of eggs! More importantly, it would get everyone out of the house and enjoying the outdoors. We live on two lots with plenty of space to accommodate our new feather family members! So, I researched the zoning codes for the property we own in Charlotte County and I did not find anything specifically stating having chickens as pets in residential areas was prohibited.
Since our love grew for our hens and our children loved raising them as chicks, they begged us to get some more. Of course, we knew we had plenty of space to accommodate some more chickens. To our surprise, we ended up with 2 roosters. I knew roosters were considered a nuisance animal. So, I knew we had to find them new homes, but it was not going to be easy......
Just days before we found our roosters new homes, a compliant was made to the county. We were notified via mail stating the chickens on our property created a prohibited use of the property and we had 10 days to remove the chickens from the property. We desperately tried to plead our case to the Code Compliance Officer, ensuring him we do not have roosters anymore. But, we were told chickens are not permitted in residential zones of Charlotte County.
(e) Prohibited Uses and Structures: Any use or structure not expressly or by reasonable implication permitted herein or permitted by Special Exception, including but not limited to mobile homes, commercial parking lots and private clubs not otherwise permitted by Special Exception, shall be unlawful in this district.
According to the Codes of Laws and Ordinances of Charlotte County, Sec. 3-9-33 Residential Single-Family (c), keeping of pets, excluding animal breeding, boarding, and training.
So, why are our chickens not considered pets? Our chickens are a part of our family.
I began to wonder, "What does the county consider a pet? In all of the codes and ordinances, the only definitions regarding animals were under the "Charlotte County Animal Control Ordinance."
Sec. 1-4-22 Applicability
This article provides for the regulation of any animal, as defined herein, which is owned, harbored, or kept in Charlotte County. It does not provide for regulation of wildlife living in a natural undomesticated state.
Sec. 1-4-25 Definitions under Charlotte County Control Animal Control Ordinance
(b) Animal shave have the meaning as found in Florida Statues section 828.27, as amended from time to time.
(m) Domestic animal means any equine or bovine animal, goat, sheep, swine, dog, cat, poultry, or other domesticated beast or bird.
(o) Keeper, harborer, or owner shall mean any person that owns, possess, has custody, controls, gives shelter, feeds, confines, boards, keeps, houses, is in charge of, or tends any animal.
(s) Livestock means all animals of the equine, bovine, or swine class including goats, sheep, mules, horses, hogs, cattle, ostriches, and other grazing animals.
According to these ordinances, any animal in Charlotte County is governed by these ordinances. Therefore, by definition a chicken (poultry) is a domesticated animal, no different than a dog or cat. I was also told by the county, chickens are considered livestock. As you can see, poultry does not fall under the definition of livestock. A keeper, harborer, or owner defines who owns the animals. After reading these ordinances, one can easily assume chickens can be owned in residential areas.
I thought for sure I could explain this finding and have this violation resolved. When I reported this to the Code Compliance Officer, I was told he was unaware of the animal control ordinance and was not violating me on that ordinance, but on the 3-9-33 (e) Prohibited Uses.
According to the Codes of Laws and Ordinances of Charlotte County, Sec. 1-1-15. - Code enforcement, a Code or Codes means any ordinance or ordinances of Charlotte County, Florida, or any section or sections contained in the Code of Laws and Ordinances of Charlotte County, as the same exist, and as they may have been amended on the effective date of this section and as the same may be amended subsequently. A Code Enforcement Officer means any designated employee or agent of the county whose duty it is to enforce county codes and ordinances. So, it is the duty of all Code Compliance Officers to enforce ALL codes and ordinances of Charlotte County. So, how could I violate a code when I am permitted to keep pets on my property?
I realized I was not going to convince the Code Compliance Officer of my findings and I had to find another way to resolve this issue. I referred back to the Sec. 3-9-33 (d), Conditional uses and structures (6) 4-H, FFA and similar uses or activities. But was informed the chickens had to be removed at the cessation of those programs.
Again, I realized this was not going to be feasible to keep our pets. I spoke with another Code Compliance Officer to research what "other similar uses or activities" entailed. I was informed the organization had to be a bonafide organization.
After searching for other organizations, I discovered the American Poultry Association (APA) which had junior memberships for the children. The APA was established in 1873 and is the oldest organization of its kind in North America! So, I reached out to the county to confirm this organization falls under the similar uses or activities. I did not get a response until the day the follow-up inspection was due and I was told this organization in not intended for a residential area and not considered a "similar use" by their interpretation of the intent of a conditional use. How can 4H and FFA be allowed in a residential area under conditional uses when they both promote agricultural skills? It seems the intent of the codes and ordinances are not clear.
For this reason, residents of Charlotte County need a clear, concise ordinance to allow backyard chickens as pets!!