Observers parse rule targeting Muscovies
The word "wild" tames police enforcement until the town attorney can look into it.
By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published December 5, 2007
Muscovy ducks wander around a home in May. Former Mayor Harold Paxton has an interesting take on the word "mammals" in the rule.
[DIRK SHADD | Times]
KENNETH CITY - A Muscovy may look like a duck, quack like a duck and, well, be a duck, but it's not wildlife, according to the state.
And if it's not wildlife, then some people doubt that Kenneth City's newest ordinance applies to Muscovies, which were the target of the measure in the first place. The ordinance bans the feeding of wildlife on private property.
Town resident Russ Koerner, no friend of the grumpy ducks, said he warned the council before it passed the ordinance that the wording would exclude Muscovies because the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission classifies them as "feral domestic ducks." He suggested that the ordinance should be worded to apply directly to Muscovies and/or other "feral" animals, but his suggestion was ignored.
The new rule reads in part: "It shall be unlawful for any person in the town to feed or distribute grain or food of any kind or nature to any wild flock of birds, fowl, including chickens or ducks, livestock or mammals of any kind or nature, whether or not they tend to assemble or herd themselves together in a concentrated area."
"I guess no one paid attention," Koerner said in an e-mail to the Neighborhood Times after the rule was passed.
"This means the KC ordinance does NOT apply to Muscovies!"
Koerner is not the only one who faults the ordinance. Former Mayor Harold Paxton noted the word "mammals." A mammal, he said, includes dogs, cats and humans.
"You're going to have to close all the restaurants in town," Paxton said. "Not only do you have people congregating there in flocks or herds, they're feeding them."
Paxton added, "This covers everything. Everything cannot be fed in Kenneth City."
Well, everything, it would appear, except Muscovies, the only critters that were supposed to be affected.
On the plus side, Paxton said his wife, Peggy, is pleased with the ban.
"She doesn't want to cook (for me) anymore," he said.
Mayor Muriel Whitman said she was unaware that the state does not consider Muscovies to be wildlife until a reporter called her asking for comment.
"Everything I checked prior to this, I didn't come up with anything like this," Whitman said. "I'm going to turn this over to the attorney. I'm going to put it in his corner."
Whitman did not return a phone message Tuesday asking for comment about Paxton's interpretation of the rule and about the town attorney's position on the ordinance.
Interim police Chief Kevin Matson has told his officers not to enforce the ordinance.
Matson said he was told to hold off on enforcement until the town attorney studied the issues and came to some conclusion about the ordinance.
One lawyer's view
It is not only town residents who question the rule. Bryant Boydstun Jr., a St. Petersburg lawyer who serves on the Florida Bar's animal law committee, said he sees some potential legal issues with the measure.
One is that it may encroach on the "exclusive authority" of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to deal with wild animals.
Boydstun agreed that the ordinance may also not apply because the ducks are not considered "wildlife."
He also questioned the section of the ordinance that says it is unlawful for a person to create a nuisance or health hazard to the property of another person as a result of Muscovy feeding.
"It doesn't address the issue of someone feeding on their own property, and would seem to be so broad in the way that it is drawn that I could see all kinds of litigation over its application when someone feeds the ducks on their own property and the ducks happen to walk across somebody else's property to come and go to the house where the food is," Boydstun said.
Another wording glitch
This is not the first time Kenneth City has had difficulties with ordinances directed at animal feeding.
Paxton remembers when the town passed an ordinance that banned the feeding of "domestic animals."
It was changed to "non-domestic" animals, Paxton said, when he pointed out the fact that "domestic animals" include Rover and Fluffy.
[Last modified December 4, 2007, 22:57:25]
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