What is 'Ordinance No. 561'? Hint: Quack!

Yes, the issue that has ruffled nearly every feather in town is on tonight's agenda: feeding Muscovy ducks.

By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published January 9, 2008

KENNETH CITY - It appears that the Kenneth City duck war has continued unabated into the new year.

Tonight, the town will once again try to outlaw the feeding of Muscovies, but it would be hard to know that by looking at tonight's council agenda.

The agenda refers to "Ordinance No. 561 - Repealing Section 14-1 of the Town Code," but has no further explanation and no attachments.

If you look at a copy of proposed Ordinance No. 561, then the town's intent becomes plain: Members will vote on whether to repeal the section of the town code known as "Feeding of Birds and Animals," and, as part of that vote, will automatically create a new rule designed to stop Muscovy feeding.

Tonight's reading is preliminary. The proposal will have to pass two readings before going into effect.

"We rewrote a whole new ordinance," Mayor Muriel Whitman said Monday.

"Eventually, it'll either be passed or won't be passed. I think it will please everybody."

The prospect that the town might outlaw feeding Muscovies on public or private property dismayed Maureen and Paul Lyons, who have been two of the strongest opponents to the banning of duck feeding. The Lyonses say a majority of the town also opposes the ban.

"I don't think rewriting it is going to make everybody happy," Maureen Lyons said. "I can't believe it. I was hoping they'd just let it slide."

The council's move comes at a time when member Al Carrier is under investigation by the state Commission on Ethics.

Among other things, Carrier is alleged to have misused his office by siccing a Kenneth City police officer on duck lovers in an attempt to keep them from gathering signatures on a petition opposing an ordinance that would ban duck feeding.

At the time, Carrier denied the charges. On Tuesday he said he could not comment on the state investigation.

Muscovy ducks became an issue last year when they began, some would say, overrunning the town. The final blow seemed to come when Whitman walked outside one day to find 40 of them in her front yard looking for a handout.

Soon after, the council began considering an ordinance that would ban feeding of the often grumpy ducks on private property. Kenneth City rules already banned feeding on public property.

Although the overwhelming majority of people who spoke at council meetings opposed the ordinance, the council passed it 4-1. Wanda Dudley voted against it.

But the ink was barely dry on the ordinance when problems arose. The way it was phrased would have also banned bird feeders and handing nuts to passing squirrels.

And former Mayor Harold Paxton pointed out that it also banned the feeding of mammals, which could be construed to outlaw the feeding of humans as well as Fluffy and Rover.

Perhaps worst of all, the ordinance did not touch the Muscovy. The wording talked about wildlife. But, according to the state, a Muscovy is not wildlife but a "feral domestic" duck.

The council directed Kenneth City police to ignore the new ordinance.

Now, council members are trying again. The new proposal would allow bird feeders and the feeding of "free-roaming squirrels."

The proposed ban would apply to "birds, fowl, or undomesticated animals of any kind or nature, whereby they tend to assemble or herd themselves together in a concentrated area."

And, in case anyone questions its application to Muscovies, another clause says that it "shall be unlawful to feed or distribute food or grain to any free-roaming ducks or other fowl within the corporate limits of the town."

Whitman said the ordinance will apply not only to Muscovies but to geese, which also flock to Kenneth City's lakes.

Feeding is not the only fowl deed prohibited by the new rule.

"Crowing roosters or other noisy fowl" would be considered a nuisance and would have to leave town once someone complained to the Police Department.