I have to say, someone called me the Little Red Hen yesterday and I loved it. I'll wear that title with pride.
But, let me tell you my story.
Well, it all started in 2010 when Sam wanted rabbits.
He decided we should raise rabbits and maybe chickens. So, he looked up the code to see how many we could have and he found out we couldn't have any. You see, our code was this:
Livestock and Fowl Prohibited
A. Vietnamese pot belly pigs accepted; it shall be unlawful for any person to keep or harbor within the corporate limits of the city, either on his premises or on the premises of another, any cows, horses, mules, sheep, goats, hogs, chickens or other domestic animals or fowl, other than cats, dogs and that particular species of swine commonly known as a Vietnamese pot belly pig. The Vietnamese pot belly pig shall be allowed into the city upon the following conditions:
1. The animal, prior to entering into the city, has been tested for pseudo rabies and brucellisis and been found clean of such disease.
2. The animal is subject to licensing, kenneling, and other requirements of this chapter pertaining to dogs.
3. That such animal is treated as a domestic animal in a similar manner as dogs and cats.
B. Conventional Swine Banned: Conventional, hogs, and pigs, other than the Vietnamese pot belly pigs shall remain banned from the city.
C. Penalty: Any person keeping or harboring any cows, horses, mules, sheep, goats, hogs, chickens or other domestic animals or fowl other than cats or dogs and Vietnamese pot belly pigs, within the city limits, shall be guilty of maintaining a public nuisance and upon conviction thereof shall be subject to penalty as provided in section 1-4-1 of this code.
To translate, you can have 2 dogs, millions of cats, a pig that is it. It bans "domestic animals" which means even a goldfish is illegal in Rigby. Um.... okay?
So, Sam decided he should go to the city and ask for a variance. He took Belle because she wanted to do 4H. Well, the council put him on the agenda, listened to him and turned him down. Why? Because, they told him, he is a police officer and if they let him have a variance, others would want a variance too.
Sam was really frustrated when he came home and told me that. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. Why is it okay to single him out and deny him a variance because he is an employee of the city? That feels wrong. If they don't want to allow something for smell or noise, okay, but because of his job? Felt a bit discriminatory.
So, I set off on a mission. I went to the city and talked to the lady who was in charge of codes at that time. I asked her how to go about changing a code. She told me to get a petition, get 10-12 names and then get on the city agenda to present it and ask for a change. I got 96-ish names. Then I tried to get on the agenda, just like Sam had been on the agenda and just like I was told I could. The city clerk refused to let me on the agenda. He told me I had to give him the petition and he would decide if I could speak to the council. So, I gave it to him. He denied it and told me the signatures were illegible (I asked if they wanted printed name and was told no) and I didn't have enough (remember when I was told 10 or 12? When I do math 96 is more than that).
I was angry. Very angry. I felt like I was treated incorrectly. I was angrier when a city council member came to me a month or so later and asked me to present the chickens to them. I told him to get me on the agenda if he wanted me to do it, and he never got back to me.
So, it sat for a few years. People would ask all the time if I was going to fix it and I said I was done. I was.
Then, the elections happened this fall. We had a new mayor and some new council members. I was encouraged to try again. I didn't really want to, but I wrote up some information, found laws and did a mountain of research, including writing 3 codes that could be used to replace the current code. Then, I was asked to get on the agenda again. Okay. Well, the clerk did not want to allow me, but the mayor pushed that through. So, I spoke. It was a less than fun time. Some council members were rather rude to me. Most didn't even read the extensive research I sent them, including sending a copy of our city's actual code and code from other cities. I was frustrated and wanted to quit. I spent so much time on my work and those men didn't care.
But, I hate quitting more than I hate ignorance. So, I kept going. Then, I got wise and started asking for support from the community. Interest grew and people were offering to help.
Then, these things happened:
A few news channels called me for interviews. Here is News 6:
Phil was great to work with. I really liked him.
This is my picture with Bre from News 8. She was very nice and fun to be interviewed by.
We made a facebook group called "Rigby Citizens for Chickens". People started writing letters and talking to neighbors. It got big.
Last night was the meeting deciding if they would change the code to allow 8 hens. They did not want to allow slaughtering, but I pointed out their code in the books that allows the slaughter of animals. (Seriously, the Rigby code book is a nightmare. Contradictory codes everywhere. It needs to be fixed desperately.) So, they left that, but they did ban the sale of eggs.
In my research, I was tipped off to the state Right to Farm Act. I found the Rigby's law is actually void based on this state law. I tried to talk to the city attorney about it and he talked to me long enough to take my information I had written, but he never called back after he read through it. Oh well.
No matter what, I knew we were right and we were going to win.
Some people decided to stage a peaceful protest outside. They had some thoughtful and articulate reasons for doing it and I respected their stance, though I didn't protest myself.
Whine. I can run 6 miles, no big, but I get a blister from walking a half mile to a meeting. Boo!
Don't mind my scary toenail, it is the only way I can not get an ingrown nail from running.
I wrote about the meeting on the fb page, so I will just share that here:
It felt like a tense meeting to me.
There was a group of about 20 people peacefully holding signs in support of chickens. Some came in to the meeting when it started.
The room was full and the hallway was full.
Quite a few people got up and spoke in support of chickens and one person spoke in the neutral opinion.
Councilman Olsen wanted to let the people govern themselves and do something similar.
City Attorney Dunn used a reference of a feed lot in Idaho Falls that was slowly driven out of the city and how the Right to Farm Act did not protect it. When questioned further, he did say that if a citizen had a rabbit, the Right to Farm Act would protect that rabbit in Rigby. He said that small animals would be protected by it.
Councilman Maloney said he does not want chickens in the city.
Councilman Simonsen said he researched and listened to the people and he was in favor of chickens.
Councilman Sullenger did not speak.
Councilman Walker was present via speakerphone.
Councilman Taylor made a motion to repeal code 5.4.5 and no one seconded it.
The mayor talked about how this was progress and urged another motion.
I cannot remember who I (Maybe Simonsen?) made the motion to pass the new code, it was seconded and passed. Only Maloney voted against it.
What we, the citizens have learned:
We can make changes. If we unite and speak up for what we believe in, we will be heard. I don't think this should be an anomaly for the city of Rigby, but a the beginning of a new tradition of citizen involvement. We aren't finished here. We made a good step, but our codes are woefully out of date. There are things we don't like in our city. there are things we need here. It is time to be empowered and be a part of the change we want to see in the world. We did it here and it was amazing. Let's do it some more.
Today is an exciting day in Rigby.
8 hens. All this for 8 hens.
I have to say, I am thrilled this is over. Of course, now I don't know if I even want chickens! But, I do want rabbits and now that I understand the law, I know I can get them and the city can't enforce their code because it is unconstitutional. I hope they fix it, but until then, state law is my friend.
This has been a good week. I'll write about the other HUGE thing we did, but right now I just want to put this to bed. I have spent years on changing this law and I am so happy it is done. I didn't want to do anything today, but KPVI wanted another interview today, so I did it. I'll try to post that later.