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Roostergate! Feathers fly as CBRM council rejects municipality-wide rooster ban

David Jones, left, keeps a close eye and a firm grip on a leghorn rooster called Snowflake, while Sasha Stubbert smiles while holding Jefferson, a Plymouth rock rooster, in front of city hall prior to the start of Tuesday evening's council meeting. They were protesting a clause in the proposed animal husbandry bylaw that called for a ban on both urban and rural roosters that were not part of an agricultural commodity set-up. Council dropped the ban following a lively two-hour debate.
David Jones, left, keeps a close eye and a firm grip on a leghorn rooster called Corn Flake, while Sasha Stubbert smiles while holding Jefferson, a Plymouth rock rooster, in front of city hall prior to the start of Tuesday evening's council meeting. They were protesting a clause in the proposed animal husbandry bylaw that called for a ban on both urban and rural roosters that were not part of an agricultural commodity set-up. Council dropped the ban following a lively two-hour debate. - David Jala
SYDNEY, N.S. —

The fact that people entering city hall were greeted by a pair of roosters named Cornflake and Jefferson should have served as a warning that the evening’s municipal council meeting would be unusual.

And it was unusual. In fact, some councillors would later describe the meeting as strange, even weird.

After taking care of some other business, council turned its attention to the second and final reading of the proposed Animal Husbandry Bylaw. The four-page document was drafted by Cape Breton regional Municipality planning director Malcolm Gillis in an effort to effectively enforce and penalize animal owners who repeatedly ignore noise and odour complaints.

When the issue arose at a May 2018 meeting, Gillis told council that the intent of the bylaw was to address complaints from constituents about noise and odours caused by livestock animals that are kept for “non-agricultural” purposes. And, as promised, it did just that by making it an offence to violate either the noise or odour standards set out in the document.

However, it turned out that one particular line of the bylaw ruffled feathers. It read as follows: “Roosters are banned from any urban property or rural property where the housing of domestic livestock animals is not as an agricultural commodity.”

Thanks to social media, widespread opposition to the ban on roosters (male chickens) quickly spread and before long a group called Rally for Roosters sprang up on Facebook. Page creator Sasha Stubbert, who described the targeting of one gender of a specific species as “ludicrous”, showed up at city hall for Tuesday’s meeting along with roosters Jefferson and Cornflake.

While the two sociable roosters checked out meeting-goers, Stubbert said she ever expected to take the birds into council chambers. She went on to explain that their presence was just a show of opposition.

But while the roosters proved to be an interesting sideshow, the real performance was taking place inside city hall where about three dozen people opposed to the rooster ban gathered to take in the proceedings. During the public hearing part of the bylaw reading, a number of them addressed council and expressed their opinions as to why placing a ban on roosters was unfair. One presenter even brought up the importance of the emotional support aspect of keeping a pet, whether it be feathered or not. A sole supporter of the ban spoke out in favour of making it unlawful for the morning-loving fowl to reside in urban areas.

After half an hour, the councillors had their say. In fact, the debate, which was at times heated, lasted for some 93 minutes and included discussion on more than just whether roosters should be allowed to do their thing in the CBRM. At one point, District 8 councillor Amanda McDougall tabled a motion to amend the proposed bylaw by removing the rooster ban altogether.

That, in turn, led to a debate within a debate as to whether council should change the wording of the proposed bylaw after it had already been publically advertised. In the end, council passed the motion before also voting to approve the newly amended bylaw. And that conversation was not without some passionate statements from council members.

Cape Breton University political science professor Tom Urbaniak said he was not surprised that the meeting was a highly charged affair.

“Local government can be chaotic at times because the issues are raw and direct,” he said.

“The effects on people’s property or livelihood or enjoyment of their surroundings can be immediate and perceived to be major and emotions can run high.”

Urbaniak also noted that such fiery council sessions are more likely at the municipal level because constituents have much greater access to their elected representatives than they do at other levels of government.

“It’s constant, and it includes both access in the communities and, as we just saw, in the council chambers,” he said.

To summarize, both urban and rural CBRM residents are still permitted to keep roosters for non-agricultural reasons, including as pets, but are subject to the rules of the new bylaw in terms of noise and odour.

Barring any appeals, the bylaw will take effect 14 days after it is advertised in the newspaper.

Enforcement of the bylaw will be the responsibility of the Cape Breton Regional Police Service. A summary conviction will cost the violator $165 for a first offence, $279 for a second, $425 for a third and $605 for a fourth offence within a 12-month period.

david.jala@cbpost.com

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