DOWNTOWN — Roosters would be banned and other farm animals, like goats and pigs, more tightly regulated in Chicago under a newly proposed ordinance.
Chicago has long allowed animals like chickens, goats and even horses to be kept in the city. But a spate of incidents over the summer — including the rescue of 114 chickens who were illegally kept in a single garage for cockfighting — led to Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) pushing for stricter regulations.
Animal advocates are worried the plan would thwart their efforts and lead to more dead or mistreated animals, though.
“We need to start addressing the livestock issue in Chicago,” Lopez said. “I know there are concerns from advocates who want no animal regulations … but that’s just not feasible in the city of Chicago.”
The ordinance would outright ban roosters across the city and would require residents to get a $25 annual license for each farm animal they own. “Poultry, waterfowl, roosters as well as four-legged farm animals such as swine, sheep and goats” would be covered under the ordinance, according to a news release.
Lopez said roosters would be banned for their own safety to avoid cockfighting and because they’ve become “nuisance” animals in wards like his.
The new rules would also allow neighbors to petition to ban certain animals within individual precincts for at least four years.
Violations would result in fines of $100-$500 per offense per day.
Lopez said his ordinance, introduced this week, will help protect animals and give neighbors more of a say in what animals can live in their community. He’d like to see it passed in October, though he said he’s “not trying to rush this.”
“I firmly believe that communities have the right, and should have the right, to make decisions for themselves,” Lopez said. “That is why if communities feel like they want to have farm animals in their midsts then they should be able to have that; if they do not, they also should be able to make that known and act accordingly.”
Rescue groups said the ordinance could hamstring their efforts to save and keep animals in Chicago, though.
Many groups rescue abandoned or mistreated farm animals, with some keeping them at sanctuaries and homes within the city permanently or before finding them another family. Those efforts could be ended if a rescuer’s home or sanctuary falls within a precinct where certain animals are banned.
“The current proposal puts myself and others who tirelessly work to protect these animals at risk of either losing our homes or the animals we love and care for,” said Kelsey Atkinson, the director of Chicago Animal Save. The group rescues and finds homes for farmed animals, including goats and chickens, in the city.
Julia Magnus, who rescues roosters and hens in the city through her group, the Chicago Roo Crew, said some parts of the proposed rules could be beneficial: A licensing process could help the city and animal advocates track data about farmed animals in the city and would raise money that, she hopes, would go to Chicago Animal Care and Control, she said.
But Magnus would prefer to see licensing fees done in a tiered structure with different fees for animals who have different impacts, she said.
And Magnus, who is also a lawyer who’s worked in animal law, is concerned the outright ban on roosters would lead to people abandoning the fowl since people buy chicks without knowing if they’ll grow into hens or roosters.
That’s what’s happened in suburban Evanston, where there’s a ban on roosters, Magnus said. Dumping of birds in Chicago can lead to them facing serious injury, illness and death.
“The inevitable consequence is dumped roosters,” said Magnus, who added the Roo Crew has had to save abandoned roosters in Evanston. “This ban really ends with poor outcomes for the animals in the communities because people just end up dumping them.”
Instead, Magnus wants the city to educate people on roosters. Magnus has a rooster at her home in Bronzeville and said her neighbors love to talk about the bird, see him and “enjoy his song.”
Magnus is also worried that, if individual precincts have their own bans for certain animals, it’ll be difficult for police and Animal Control to track and enforce.
The individual bans can also lead to people stigmatizing certain animals and thinking they deserve a lesser standard of care than a traditional pet, like a cat or dog, Magnus said.
Magnus said all animals are entitled to the same care and that rescuers like her see chickens and other creatures as companions just like they would any other pet. Those that don’t should rethink their approach to how they treat animals, she said.
“Obviously all of us are against people having 114 birds in crates stacked one on top of the other in cockfighting rings …,” Magnus said. “But I think there are other ways to approach this that would address that without harming the cool urban chicken community in Chicago and urban farmed animal community in Chicago.”
Magnus and other animal advocates are meeting with the Mayor’s Office, Animal Control and various rescue organizations to discuss how to protect Chicago’s farm animals. She hopes Lopez and Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), who supports Lopez’s ordinance, will attend.
Magnus said that meeting will likely be held by the end of next week.
“We agree with [Lopez’s] concerns for communities. We just think … there may be other concerns to consider,” Magnus said. “The best outcome would be everyone [getting] their heads together and let’s do it together.”
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.