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Resident fights for pet chickens

By By Adam Prestridge
Complaints from residents upset over chickens within the city limits sparked the birds’ owner to plead with members of the Atmore city council during Tuesday’s meeting.
Sam Phelps, who lives at 201 E. Cypress Street, presented Mayor Howard Shell with a dozen freshly laid eggs and addressed the council stating that he felt city officials were harassing him after he made a complaint following utility work performed in front of the home.
Phelps was referring to water, sewer and gas line replacement work that the Atmore Utilities Board has been performing throughout the entire city for months.
Section 5-1 of the city’s code of ordinances reads: It shall constitute a public or common nuisance and a misdemeanor for any person to raise, maintain, have in possession or harbor any dog, horse, hog, cow, chicken or other animal or fowl in such numbers or in such manner or under such conditions or circumstances, or with such result, as to be offensive or unwholesome or a source of injury, detriment, hurt or annoyance to the health, comfort or welfare of any person occupying adjacent premises.
The ordinance further states: The conviction of any person for a violation of this section shall in no manner affect the authority of the city to maintain a bill in equity to abate or enjoin the nuisance caused, created or maintained by such person.
Phelps went on to say that he called City Hall to schedule an appointment with building inspector Chris Black, who stated that the grass at the home located on 201 E. Cypress St., owned by Mary Sawyer, was too high, there was trash around the yard and that neighbors were also complaining about chickens. Phelps added that the reason the grass was high was because “our lawn mower had been stolen” and the reason the yard had trash in it was “we’ve been renovating our house.”
According to Phelps, he moved the chickens to another location for two weeks in order to complete construction of an enclosed shed he had already started constructing when Black told him that another anonymous complaint had been made.
Once the enclosure was completed, Phelps said he brought his pet chickens “back home.”
Phelps went on to say that the Alabama code definition of livestock does not include chickens, but generally includes animals that are a source of income.
Shell informed Phelps that the city’s ordinance does include chickens. He also said that it is the building inspector’s job to enforce city ordinances and that if someone is in violation or there has been a complaint filed, they have complete authority to issue homeowners citations.
In other business, the council: