Monday, August 3, 2009

The serious side of Mr. Clucky

The Miami Herald reports on the ongoing saga of Mr. Clucky, the rooster from Miami Beach, and his fight against city hall. Mr. Clucky and a guinea hen named Wallflower are being kept by Mark Buckley, a vegetarian of 39 years, in his first floor condo. The Miami code enforcement office is arguing that Buckley is illegally keeping "poultry" under the Miami Beach Code. Specifically, section 10-15 of the code reads:
It shall be prohibited for any person to keep, stable, harbor or maintain any horse, poultry, livestock or farm animals in any district, provided, however, that nothing herein contained shall be construed so as to prohibit the keeping, stabling, harboring or maintaining of any horse, poultry, livestock or farm animals in such districts for public events such as circuses, shows and similar events, or in any special cases, for temporary periods of time, as approved by the city manager or his/her designee, in writing, in advance of such events.
From the language used in the code, it seems relatively straightforward that the code was designed to prevent people from keeping animals used as food. The code does not define the term "poultry", but a definition can be found in Chapter 583, Florida Statutes, which deals with the classification and sale of eggs and poultry for food. In particular, section 583.01(19), Florida Statutes, defines "poultry" as "all kinds of poultry and includes chickens, turkeys, ducks, guineas, geese, pigeons raised as domesticated food birds, quail, and other domesticated food birds." Moreover, where the term is used in the Chapter it is always used to refer to meat or birds that will be used as meat. Similarly, most dictionary definitions for poultry also qualify the birds described to those used for food or eggs. Check out excerpts from the hearing at this link:

Buckley's assertion at the hearing relied on definitions of poultry in asserting that both Mr. Clucky and Wallflower are not being raised for food (he is a vegetarian after all) and that they are both domesticated pets. If you check out Mr. Clucky's website here and the pictures of him riding around town on Buckley's handlebars, it's hard to disagree.

Despite this relatively compelling argument, the special master ruled against Buckley in the latest hearing and determined that both birds were poultry in violation of the code. The master urged Buckley to ask the City Commission to grant an exception to the current code.

The legal argument is an interesting one. The code drafters were concerned with people raising livestock inside the city. More importantly, Mr. Clucky's story lays bare the artificial nature that the law draws between food and companion animals. When it comes to companionship, Mr. Clucky looks no different than a parrot, dog, or cat.


aApe said...

Nice that they let circus animals come to town and get beaten, but someone who rescued an animal and is offering it succor, is SOL.

Bianca said...

Curious case. I was just researching the laws regarding keeping hens for eggs in Miami-Dade county and came across your blog. So what ever happened with this? Mr. Clucky certainly seemed within his right to have those rosters as pets. Is he elevating this to another court?

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