Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Backyard Hens vs. the State Depredation Law

4 Chesapeake Hens and other regional chicken groups are calling for action on the state level to change the  state depredation law. The reasons will be clear when you read below. Click this link to find the name of your state delegate or senator.

Dear (State Senator and/or Delegate):

I am contacting you because I support backyard hens in residential areas of Virginia. Please amend Virginia Code 3.2-6552 to exclude residential areas. The code was written to protect farmers and their livestock, but it is written in a way that is causing concern among Animal Control Officers in my own community and elsewhere. It is also preventing communities like nearby Virginia Beach from changing their laws to allow residential hens. As the state law is currently written, it is the "duty of" an Animal Control Officer who witnesses a dog killing a chicken to kill the dog immediately. Also, property owners or other witnesses who see a dog killing chickens also have the right to kill the dog. While this law makes sense in areas zoned agricultural, it makes little sense in residential areas where the use of firearms is prohibited. The state law also conflicts with animal cruelty laws. The law has become outdated; many urban areas, including Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Richmond, and many others, allow backyard hens.

Delegate DeSteph is the delegate who is most familiar with this issue. Please, act immediately to change this outdated ordinance in a way that protects the interests of our farmers while protecting dogs and their owners in residential areas. By doing this, you will open the door to allowing backyard hens in residential areas of Virginia Beach and elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

**Update on 1/15/14: Here is a response I just received from our district's state senator. Unfortunately, we do not have a delegate at the moment because of recent elections (ours got elected for another office and the spot has not yet been filled).

Dear Mrs. Burke,

Thank you for contacting me to express support for legislation that would allow backyard hens in residential areas.  Your feedback is greatly appreciated. If presented with the opportunity to vote on amendments to Virginia Code 3.2-6552 during the 2014 General Assembly, I will most certainly keep your views and recommendations in mind.

Again, thank you for your correspondence. For additional legislative information or to follow the progress of legislation, you may visit the Virginia General Assembly website at http://virginiageneralassembly.gov. If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kenneth Cooper Alexander
Member, Senate of Virginia

Update: in February of 2014, both the Virginia House and Senate voted to give ACOs the option to seize the dog instead of killing it.

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