Town Board: What can be done about roaming livestock?

12/01/2010 3:55 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Chickens roaming at a home on the Main Road in Cutchogue Saturday.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell’s office has been inundated with calls about animals — particularly chickens and guinea hens — wandering around residential areas, but because a proposal he floated four years ago to restrict livestock in residential areas failed, he says he is loathe to bring up the topic again.

The only law on the town’s books relating to livestock is a 40-foot setback requirement for coops and pens. When Supervisor Russell reported he’d had a lot of complaints about loose animals at Tuesday morning’s Town Board work session, and asked board members if the town should draft more rules, those who are farmers in so many words said no way. It is nearly impossible to control the behavior of animals once they are outside of their pens, they said.

Councilman Chris Talbot cited a recent case in Mattituck in which a chicken got loose and was eaten by a dog.

“Once you let your animal out of its pen, it’s on its own,” said Councilman Al Krupski, a farmer. “If my chicken goes on my neighbor’s yard and their dog eats my chicken, what then?”

“If you don’t think enough of your animals and you let them go, nature takes its course,” agreed Councilman Bill Ruland, also a farmer.

Mr. Russell said that his reluctance to bring up the subject stemmed, in part, from what a New York Times article suggested four years ago about the problem here: the complaints about animals came from city residents who had moved to the country and didn’t like living near working farms.

”It’s people who move in to residential areas who go out and buy all these pets because they live in country now” who cause the conflicts with nearby farm animals, he said. “I’m very gun shy. I got my head handed to me last time.”

Cutchogue resident Benja Schwartz, who was in the audience, interrupted the half-hour-long discussion to tell the board members he didn’t understand where they were going with the topic. He said that the problem required a common sense solution.

“You’ll find it in songs. Johnny Cash wrote a song called ‘The Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog,’” he said, then began chastising the board for not making clear what animals they were referring to in their discussion.

“You can’t understand anything,” snapped the supervisor after several minutes of tense conversation with Mr. Schwartz. Perhaps it’s a problem with your comprehension. I don’t care what Johnny Cash sang about.”

The board quickly tabled the discussion as Mr. Schwartz stormed out of the board room.

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13 Comment

  • You know life in Southold is pretty darn good when people spend time worrying about chickens and guinea hens wandering into their yards.

  • Why does Benja Schwarz dominate the meetings? He never has constructive solutions, he is not a taxpayer, and I think he may have mental problems. It is almost impossible to understand what he is trying to achieve with his diatribe…The disruption to the board each week prevents many of us from coming to the meetings. There needs to be a 5 minute rule or less, so we don’t have to be bombarded with his paranoid rantings.

  • The truth is that Benja does not
    >> dominate the meetings
    nor does Benja
    >> prevent many of us from coming to the meetings.

    The reverse is true. The participation of Benja is prominent only because nobody else bothers to get involved.

    Ka779an is obviously more interested
    in attacking Benja by making false accusations
    than in addressing the issues.

  • There are two errors in this story.

    The first error is minor. The date when Supervisor Russell first floated a proposal to restrict livestock in residential areas was not four years ago, it was three years and one month.
    See the Minutes of Southold Town Board Meeting on October 9, 2007

    >> Mr. Russell said community members misunderstood his proposal,
    which he said was now a dead issue.
    NY Times; October 28, 2007 — REGULATION; In the Region; Long Island
    Animal Measures Draw Persistent Opposition by CAROLYN NARDIELLO

    The second error in this story is more complicated. Benja did not interrupt. He requested and was granted the floor. Supervisor Russell, whose authority and responsibility includes acting as Chairman of the Town Board meetings, then changed his mind and interrupted Benja, telling Benja to stop now, and come back to speak during the Regular Town Board meeting.

    Benja was trying to state the obvious, we don’t need a leash law for birds. We don’t need any new law. We already have enough laws. We do need to recognize existing laws and apply them.

    The Johnny Cash song is written about a legal case. The decision is persuasive legal authority in Southold Town. The Decision essentially holds that when an animal “trespasses” on private property the owner can not kill the animal unless and until the owner first:
    >> takes one or the other, and when necessary all, of the three following courses: (1) He must use reasonable efforts to drive the dog away and in such appropriate manner as will probably cause him to stay away; or (2) he must endeavor to catch the dog and confine him to be dealt with in a manner which we do not enter upon because not here before us; or (3) he must make reasonable efforts to ascertain and notify the owner of the dog, so that the latter may have opportunity to take the necessary precautions by which to stop the depredations.
    << Egg Sucking Dog Case in the Mississippi Supreme Court (1940)

    Hopefully this issue will be addressed more truthfully when the facts are disclosed. Supervisor Russell promised to prepare “an abstract” of the complaints his office has received. What I am worried about is people who are killing guinea hens wandering into their yards. And, there is also the fact that the rural character of Southold Town which is currently being reviewed and changing in Southold 2020 (the new Comprehensive Town Plan) and by local rates of residential and commercial construction which are defying the National trends.

  • While we are on the subject of correcting “errors”, Benja forgot to mention that it was not just me who stopped him from continuing but, the entire board. I have been more then fair in letting Benja participate in some work session discussions in the past and I will in the future. However, his actions the other day were disruptive, confrontational and not productive. further, Mr. Schwartz was, in the boards view, verbally abusive to another member of the public who was sitting in on the meeting. On the issue of “animal control”, the board specifically did not address a draft or a law because there was no proposal on the table. I simply was bringing this ongoing issue to the Board for their understanding of it. Scott Russell

  • Are you for real? I admit I was full of emotions and my emotions were showing. But the ones who were verbally abusive were Supervisor Russell who mistook my iPod for a boom box, and Frank Wills who stood up and began to yell that I was nobody and should not be speaking at a Town Board worksession. I merely responded that he was being hypocritical. Mr. Wills is frequently making proper remarks due to his ignorance or inability to understand issues and proper procedures. Supervisor Russell is frequently verbally abusive, he seems to think he is a comedian. For example, during the hearing on the deer fence law Supervisor Russell made an out of order remark to the effect that Benja should be fenced out of town. I haven’t listened to the video yet. Someone should make Supervisor Russell listen and think about his bad attitude.

  • To Supervisor Russell and the town board members, thank you for starting some discussion on an issue that is really dealing with quality of life, planning, zoning and enforcement issues for all the residents of Southold Town on the subject of chickens. I am truly disappointed in the personnel attack from an observer of town board activities in not allowing communication of issues that affect all town residents. This individual clouded setting in motion the availability for public discussion and input on this topic.
    In the past, our town’s planning and zoning was dealing with large areas of space between residential housing, exception being the Village of Greenport. In the present we are dealing with housing developments, etc., increased populations, and an idea that we are still truly rural. With this in mind, we need to deal with some very confrontational issues to plan for the future of Southold Town. Without communication, public hearing, etc., we are not doing justice for quality of life, planning, and zoning and enforcement issues.
    This topic is not one that can wait for the “New Comprehensive Town Plan”.

  • Benja. Why do you feel that it is o.k. for you to comment on everything and speak so critically of others then as soon as someone speaks critical of you, you complain to this site administrator and have it removed? You need to grow up if you are going to participate in this process

  • This would be a good time to read news stories from other towns and communities. Read about the gang violence spreading,The economic turmoil and corruption elsewhere.Read about the high crime rates and Drug wars going on. Then sit back and ask yourself is getting crazy over a loose chicken or barking dog is really something that deserves such attention.

  • There are so many problems and issues in this town: the homeless, the unemployed, people living quietly in poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism – all effecting the quality of our lives. I don’t go to town meetings anymore because I feel there is one person who dominates, and so much of his issues are inconsequential in comparison to what is really happening. My hope would be to give each person 5 minutes. Grandstanding before a town board is so inappropriate. May I take this time to thank each and every one of the board members for their hard work and dedication to the real issues we all face in the lovely town of Southold.

  • Just Wondering,

    Why you feel it is OK for you to remain anonymous while personally attacking other people with false accusations?

    If you would stick to the issues the site administrators would not remove your posts.

    I work hard to support our community. When other people refuse to accept constructive criticism, and take destructive actions, I have no alternative but to be critical of their failures to act and destructive actions.

    If you care about Southold you should consider dropping the personal issues and focusing on public issues.