Town Board: What can be done about roaming livestock?

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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