By Dave Frank
Appeal Staff Writer
Hens peck at the dirt around the feet of Carson City mayoral candidate Pete Hansell.
They don't plan to leave his backyard without a fight.
"We will go to court and we will present our case," he says.
"We're trying to raise an issue," his wife and school board member Barbara Howe says. "These (hens) are the criminals?"
While the couple has had chickens or geese since they moved to their 233 Tacoma Ave. home three years ago, they could get a misdemeanor citation for the animals, which, along with other livestock, are illegal in most residential areas of Carson City.
Hansell and Howell had thought they might get an exemption for the seven Rhode Island Red chickens, but neighbors have complained. The couple expects a citation any day for the animals they use for eggs and lawn care.
The code is unfair, the couple believes, because they could have gotten an exemption if they had the right political connections.
But most of all, they said, the law doesn't make sense because it bans something that doesn't hurt anyone and adds to the community.
"My chickens don't drink and drive," Howe said. "My chickens don't speed down the street."
But the couple is clearly breaking the law, said Carson City Animal Services Supervisor Pat Wiggins, and the couple has known for years they are not allowed to have the chickens. The couple has been warned several times about their illegal pets. It wasn't clear Tuesday what might happen to the couple's feathered friends.
Wiggins also said the department doesn't give anyone special treatment.
The animal services department gives out two to five warnings a month for chickens in residential areas, Wiggins said, but almost all get rid of the animals before a citation is issued.
Concerns about noise and feces, he said, are some of the reasons for the ordinance, which has been in effect in some form since 1978.
Violation of that ordinance is common at least in the mayor's race, however, as three out of the six candidates own illegal animals.
Steve McClung has raised chickens for a year. He was surprised when he learned that they are not allowed. He said the feed store where he bought the chickens told him he could have the animals because he lived in the northeast part of the city.
He had as much as 12 chickens until recently when he gave away a few, including an aggressive rooster.
"He flies at you and gets you about knee-high," McClung said.
He said he doesn't know what he'll do about the chickens, but candidate Bob Crowell has no plans to get rid of an illegal blind pot-bellied pig he's had for 10 years.
"You know what?" he said, "I can't believe they'll go after my pig."
• Contact reporter Dave Frank at email@example.com or 881-1212.
According to Carson City code, residents are not allowed to keep "horses, swine, fowl, sheep or other animals of a similar nature" on their residential property unless it is specially zoned. The minimum size of a property for this zoning is one acre. For questions, call Carson City Animal Services at 887-2171. Read the full text of the code, 7.13.190, at http://municipalcodes.lexisnexis.com/codes/carsoncity/.
Bob Crowell - a pot-bellied pig and a cat
Pet Hansell - seven chickens and two cats
Ken Haskins - no pets
Steve McClung - six chickens, two cats and a dog
Jim Shirk - two dogs
(Sean Lehmann could not be reached for comment Tuesday)