Some Village Trustees are concerned that a delay in voting on an amended animal ordinance would encourage residents to buy an ostrich, alligator or other exotic pets.
A revised version of the nearly 40-year-old code that re-defines household pets was introduced to Wilmette's Village Board of Trustees Tuesday night. Within the current code, household pet is broadly defined as "an animal that lives in the residence." As a result, officials have proposed revising the ordinance to ensure that dangerous, exotic animals, and livestock not be allowed as pets.
"I guess I’d be a little weary of putting off approval," trustee Mike Basil said. "The reason I say that is what if someone tries to use this time to go out and buy an exotic animal."
Discussion of a delay — and the possible ramifications of one — came about after the trustees heard one resident's concerns regarding the prohibition of backyard livestock.
"I object to the position to clearly prohibit the keeping of livestock, including chickens," Diane Schaffner, a local food activist who's worked with District 39 on farming education, told the board. While Schaffner agreed the code should be revised, she argued for a separate discussion regarding livestock.
"The banning of chickens substantially interferes with the rights of our citizens to enjoy their life and their property in the way that they see fit," Schaffner told the board. "I just don’t think hens should be lumped in with boa constrictors."
"My request is that either the livestock portion be removed from the proposed amendment or reexamined to include chickens, or that outright it just be revised to allow a few hens in my backyard," she said.
After trustees heard Schaffner's concerns, they debated sending the ordinance back to the judiciary committee or other committees for review. However, since two newly elected board members, Bob Bielinski and Julie Wolf, will be assuming positions next month and committees will be reconfigured, further discussion could result in a delayed vote.
Trustee Cameron Krueger, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, also expressed concerns in being behind on the amendment.
"If there’s an issue we need to address relative to this ... and if we’ve overreached with the chickens, then we should go back and fix it," Krueger said."Given the press that this has received, the idea of closing the loophole so there isn't the thread the needle with an ostrich in your backyard next week."
Since the board could not reach a consensus on sending the ordinance back to committee, President Chris Canning said that no further action needs to be taken.
The ordinance had been referred to the Judiciary Committee for review in June 2010, according to an April memo from Wilmette's corporation counsel to the village board. "The current Animal Control Ordinance provisions contained in the Village Code have not been substantially updated since the recodification of the 1993 code," the memo states.
The ordinance will be considered for adoption during the board's May 10 meeting.