Long Beach Animal Control

Out of Control

See 5/30/10 update at the bottom of this original narrative.

Animal Control first came to visit our property on November 18, 2009. We had 7 hens and 2 Nigerian Dwarf goats, Dinkey and Bumper. The Animal Control officer agreed that the area was maintained in an acceptable sanitary condition and that it did not smell offensive. Nevertheless, he informed us that we had to remove the goats from the property, pursuant to Long Beach Municipal Code 5.20.130 prohibiting said animals from being kept or maintained south of Anaheim Street and East of the Los Angeles Riverbed. He also ordered that we comply with the city’s chicken codes. He said that Animal Control would be reasonable and work out a compromise with us.

The compromise was that since the busy holidays were coming up, we had until January 18 to relocate the goats, to reduce the number of hens from seven to three, and to relocate the chicken coop by moving it five feet within the same yard. If we did that, he said the chickens would be in compliance with the code. He also said that he and his supervisor (Chief  Michelle Quigley) both agreed that they would count the two goats as one, since they are Dwarf goats, each being the size of a medium-sized dog. We asked if he could help find a way to get us an exemption (there are places in Long Beach that are clearly in violation so obviously have an exemption),  but of course every Animal Control officer, when asked this question, either plays dumb or selectively interprets the code to justify what is permitted and what is not.

It is difficult to find a temporary home for two goats in a city in the 2 weeks following the Christmas and New Year holidays. A week before our deadline to remove the goats, I learned about a place that I could potentially bring them. However, I then learned that the goats at this place are positive for an infectious and highly contagious bacterial disease called caseous lymphadenitis, aka cheesy gland, and that once infected, always infected. Infection with this disease would thwart my plans to have my goats for their milk, so I really don’t want to expose them, and there is no vaccine approved for use in goats in this country. Although there is a vaccine approved for use in sheep, it has potentially serious side effects, including on rare occasions anaphylactic shock and death; nevertheless I am willing to vaccinate them, but I first want to have them tested to be sure that they aren’t already positive (although currently asymptomatic) for the disease. Performing these tests, then vaccinating the goats and waiting two weeks for them to develop protective immunity, takes time, longer than allowed by Animal Control’s imposed deadline. So we asked for an extension of our deadline, explaining the above situation, but Animal Control ignored our request and failed to return our phone calls or to respond to our emails.

Instead, on January 19, 2010 a second Animal Control officer, armed with a bully stick that he refused to put away, gave us two citations totaling $300 for 3 violations twice (because we have two goats), that is even though we were in the process of complying (we reduced the number of birds and moved their coop), even though the original notice to comply only cited one code in violation, even though we had previously been told by Animal Control that our two miniature goats would be counted as one,  even though we requested a modest extension so that we could fully comply without endangering our animals, even though our attempts to communicate with Animal Control were ignored, and even though we were in the midst of a rain deluge that made it difficult to move the animals. He did indicate that the birds were in compliance.

Remember, back in November, the first Animal Control officer said that Animal Control would be reasonable and work out a compromise with us. Threatening to call the police if we don’t let him (the second Animal Control officer) in, refusing to leave his weapon behind, and fining us even though we asked for a modest extension, is not a compromise or even a reasonable accommodation, it is domination, intimidation, and side-arming. Animal Control does not care about animal welfare, and it certainly does not care about the people it is serving.

Animal Control (the second officer mentioned above) visited a third time, one day earlier than we were told to expect a visit. Even though on his previous visit the Animal Control officer insisted on actually entering the yard (it is completely visible from our bay window) before writing his citation, this time he wrote a citation without entry into the house or the yard. He wrote his citation based on supposition. Perhaps he heard my audiotape? If Animal Control insists on getting up close and personal with the animals to prove the animals are on the property, Animal Control should use the same standard to prove the animals are not on the property.

It wasn’t until the fourth visit from Animal Control (the third in which they were allowed entry) that they revealed their “compromise” required that we imprison our birds inside their coop. Our hens can no longer be free to experience the benefits of the sun, which makes the birds happier and healthier and their eggs more nutritious, except for the limited amount that enters their coop from the screened window on the South side. They can no longer scratch through the garden and the compost pile for worms and insects that had been providing free high quality protein for their diet. Their poop can no longer be directly deposited to enrich and fertilize my garden’s soil. Instead their enclosed coop and nesting boxes, where they lay their eggs in what would normally be a clean setting, get’s soiled faster. This Animal Control - mandated imprisonment of my birds defeats the purpose of raising one’s own “healthy happy hens” to avoid supporting the national food system that cares nothing about animal welfare: keeping egg layers imprisoned under artificial lighting 24-7 and meat birds imprisoned in total darkness under dirty crowded conditions.

Personally, I think it looks bad on the city of Long Beach to enforce code for the sake of enforcing code, to bully its citizens, and to actively inhibit activities that provide safe alternatives to our children rather than letting them run wild on the streets, joining gangs, experimenting with drugs and other illegal activities, etc. etc.

5/30/10 Update

Animal control has been hounding us this week. They bang on the door without announcing who they are. We finally let them in, against my better judgement, and Officer E Kelleher is now telling us that we have to get rid of ALL of our remaining 3 birds. We were in complete compliance with what they told us to do in the past. Officer Law instructed us to move our coop against our house instead of against the fence separating our yard from the neighbor’s, and that’s what we did. We reduced the # of birds from 7 to 3. They told us to do these things to be in compliance and they (Officer Kevin Law, Officer Gabriel Alvarez, and Chief Quigley) OK’d it after we complied. Now they are saying we can only have 1, but not where it is now, it has to be 20 ft from any dwelling, including my own. So even though there is built into the code an exemption to exclude your own dwelling when it comes to the setback restrictions regarding “livestock” (ox, steer, bull, cow, calf, horse, mare, stallion, colt, jack, mule, sheep, goat or hog), and even though they instructed us to put our coop exactly where we put it, they are now reinterpreting the code differently. How convenient! Today’s officer also said she was only writing up a notice to comply, and then she slapped us with a $250 fine.  I will be keeping my campaign CLEAN (but transparent), but ANIMAL CONTROL is PLAYING DIRTY.