It was a split vote, but an amended ordinance is now on the books for citizens of Pratt banning chickens, ducks, pigs goats from city limits.
Pratt City Commissioners made a potentially fowl call at their regular meeting Monday, November 18, voting 3-2 to amend an existing city ordinance outlawing farm animals in city limits to specify both chickens and ducks.
Mayor Doug Meyer and Commissioners Gary Schmidt and Zach Deeds voted to amend the ordinance. Commissioners Don Peters and Jason Leslie voted against the proposed amendment.
Pratt City Attorney Rebecca Probst told commissioners she was requesting the revision of the ordinance to specify both chickens and ducks as farm animals because of an issue raised by Municipal Court Judge Rob Eisenhauer.
Probst told city commissioners that while Judge Eisenhauer agreed that the existing ordinance, which prohibits farm animals, would prohibit chickens within the city limits, Eisenhauer didn’t concur that ducks fell in the same classification.
Probst said that her office has been assigned to prosecute cases arising from citizen complaints regarding chickens and ducks.
"We have some citizens who are harboring chickens and ducks," Probst said. "We have had numerous complaints from citizens regarding the nuisance, the smell and the mess they are causing.”
Commissioner Leslie questioned defining chickens and ducks as livestock, saying he was approached by a resident earlier in the day regarding the chicken and duck issue.
Leslie said he followed up the visit with research and found that USDA does not rule chickens and ducks as livestock.
Commissioner Peters spoke of a family friend living in another town who has four chickens housed in a backyard big chicken coop.
"They’re like pets, I’m telling you, they are,” Peters said. “She’s had quite a battle with that city commission. She just doesn’t understand; it’s her yard. I thought she made a pretty good argument.”
Probst said she looked at a number of city ordinances and found that a majority of cities in the state do not allow chickens or ducks within city limits.
Probst patterned the proposed revision for Pratt on ordinances in other cities that have bans on chickens and ducks.
"Poultry is now considered livestock,” Probst said.
Probst said the understanding by Pratt police officers for decades has been that chickens are not allowed within the city limits.
“It’s not fair for the law enforcement officers to have an ordinance they think that they understand and then it can’t be prosecuted,” Probst said. "What the police department and city attorney need is clarification and that’s what I’ve attempted to provide. I need more clarification so I can either prosecute it or not and so law enforcement officers have clear directions.”
Meyer said he previously noticed that the ordinance didn’t include swine.
Probst said she included swine and goats under the proposed amended ordinance now presented to the commissioners.
Deeds theorized that the original intent of the ordinance was so that neighbors wouldn’t impose a nuisance on other neighbors.
Meyer questioned Police Chief Nate Humble, who regularly attends city commission meetings, regarding the number of complaints police have received about chickens, overall.
"This year, it’s been a lot,” Humble said. "Could be 20 to 30 complaints."
Pratt residents Stan and Darcia Killingsworth, who currently have chickens and ducks at their residence on South Taylor, were in attendance and addressed commissioners.
“The livestock ordinance, the way we understood it, did not apply to chickens when we got them,” Stan Killingsworth said. “The ordinance allowed fowl when we got them. I spent $1,000 to build a fence. We take very good care of them and we see nothing wrong with having them. They’re not livestock.”
Killingsworth said he grew up on a farm family that maintained a flock of 30,000 chickens back in the 70’s.
"If you told anybody that chickens were livestock, those farmers would laugh at you. They’re fowl, they’re poultry,” he said.
Probst said that for decades, under the current ordinance, farm animals also included chickens and that was where police got their understanding of chickens being classified as farm animals, thus falling under the umbrella of livestock.
“I will do whatever this Commission asks me to do, I just want clarification and clear direction for our officers,” Probst said. She added that if it was the decision of commissioners to allow poultry, she requested very clear guidelines as to a number, as to how much space is required.
“I feel sympathy for responsible ownership, that’s where I kind of have the problem,” Leslie said.
Mayor Meyer questioned how current cases would be handled and if residents currently having banned fowl or domesticated swine would be grandfathered in.
“This doesn’t say it can’t be amended or tweaked in the future,” Meyer said.
Probst said she would proceed by dismissing current cases that are pending and that law enforcement officers would go out in the near future to see if they are compliant.
“If they’re not compliant, they will get a citation,” Probst said.
According to open records information from Jami Walker, Pratt Municipal Court Clerk, defendants with cases currently pending for ownership of chickens and ducks in Pratt city limits are Darcia Killingsworth and Willie Thorne, Jr.
In other business, commissioners:
--Took action to finalize the agreement with Kansas Department of Transportation for the jointly-funded million-dollar project to repave and widen U.S. 54 from Mound to New Streets, on the west end of town, adding about six inches to each lane. Public Works Director Russ Rambat said construction should begin next summer.
--Considered and approved events involved with Christmas in the Park on Saturday, November 23, and for a Candy Cane Christmas Lane downtown parade on Saturday, December 14, as presented by Pratt Area Chamber of Commerce Director Kim DeClue.
--Learned from Pam Howell, DMV, of plans by area veterinarians to sponsor a Trap Neuter Release event as a control strategy for feline population, adding their blessing to the event which has not yet been scheduled. Dr. Howell said the other vets planning to participate on a volunteer basis, donating time, facilities and/or supplies when the TNR day is scheduled are Dr. Shan Hullman, Dr. Brian Spitzer, Dr. Annie Weber and Dr. Luann Dorman.
--Passed a resolution providing for abatement of property at 503 West 4th Street. Building Inspector Brad Blankenship said that items removed from the property would be put in storage for 30 days at the homeowners’ expense. If the property is not redeemed during that time, it will be disposed of, also at the homeowners’ expense, according to Blankenship.
--Voted to approve support of Pratt Regional Medical Center’s $100,000 grant request to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Rural Health Development Planning Program to benefit patients in rural communities in Southwest Kansas and to identify strategies for recruiting and retaining the healthcare workforce. Peters, who serves on PRMC’s Board of Directors, abstained from the vote.
--Were advised by the Kansas Historical Society that authorization has been given for issuance of a demolition permit for the Veterans of Foreign Wars building at 701 East First Street, as requested by Pratt businessman Bob Blasi.