I will be happy to attend. Is the meeting still on for November 7th is what I need to know.
Are you a chicken smuggler in Shelby Township, Michigan? - Page 2
Poll Results: Are you interested in attending the meeting in Shelby Township in favor of a change in the ordinance?
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I hope you win. Shelby township is in metro Detroit? I thought they were trying to make it a suburban farm community up there. I guess your Shelby Township didn't get the memo. Geez, what is wrong with people? I mean really!
3 chickens, 2 dogs, a ferrel kitty and me!
3 chickens, 2 dogs, a ferrel kitty and me!
How did you come out on your hearing? I am a concerned citizen in Lowell Township, MI. We have a three dog ordinance and the township got an anonymous letter complaining about a person who has more than three dogs. Many people in the township have more than three dogs. I here these ordinances are really hard to fight. The belief is that the township can regulate dogs as part of their police powers. I fail to see why an anonymous letter can cause so much grief. But, I see that you had a nasty neighbor that set out to make all kinds of trouble for you. This is the same situation. This anonymous person has a vendetta and as a result, many rescue dogs may have to be euthanized. This person took in these dogs because no one else wanted them. Any advice for us folks in Lowell Township?
Sorry it has taken so long for me to reply. I don't know if my situation or advice can help as we had unusual circumstances.
Our fight with the neighbor was over a blow-up about the property line that he refused to respect. Fortunately for us, we were on good terms with his last tenant who lived in that house. The tenant told us that the bad neighbor was telling people our property was actually the landlord's property and the tenants had free use of it. The tenant had been asked to remove his kids from our property when they first moved in and was indignant about it. My husband had to show him our property survey before he understood that the bad neighbor had lied to him about the size of the yard. We own 1.7 acres. The bad neighbors yard is.53 acres cut out of a 2 acre square so our property wraps around the bad neighbors property in an L shape. The bad neighbor enjoyed telling people that he owned the additional half acre behind his house when he did not.
The tenant was willing to provide us with a notarized statement regarding the bad neighbor's attempt to redraw the property line. He also stated that he had lived immediately next to us for over a year and never had an issue with our dogs or chickens.
The complaints that the neighbor filed against us were filed within 12 hours of his blow up after we put up "No Trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted" signs along the property line behind his house. We weren't fooling around anymore. The bad neighbor's wife and I shared some words in a facebook instant message. We were both cordial but it pretty much laid out that we were tired of the trespass going on for years and would not tolerate it any longer. The next person found in our yard would be arrested for trespassing. 12 hours later he went into the city office to file multiple ordinance violations including fence without a permit, pole barn without a permit, outbuilding without a permit, temporary structures (not allowed in shelby), too many dogs with non-stop barking, chickens (not allowed on less than three acres in shelby), disgusting poopy conditions, etc etc. When we moved to Shelby we asked both Macomb county and Shelby Township what the dog limit was and for years there has been no limit as long as your dogs as cared for properly and not running loose or bothering people.
That was changed to a 2 dog limit in September of 2012. This property was also a farm with horses, chickens and goats when we purchased it in 2000. At some point it was rezoned and livestock is excluded in Shelby unless you have 3+ acres. (Contrary to the MRTFA) We have had chickens since we purchased it and sold the eggs for profit. We have even had roosters the entire time. Our property is located next to a freeway so the noise from the freeway and the road out front kind of drowns out the rooster. We never had a complaint about him and the neighbors for the most part had no idea we even had chickens until this all blew up. Only the bad neighbor knew about the chickens because of his proximity to our property.
The attorney had to write two appeals, separating the dog and chicken issues. We had the city building inspector come out to look into the complaints about fencing, temporary structures and the two barns without permits. The barns were both on the property when we bought it. Complaint dismissed. The fences were not permanent fences attached to a building or cemented into the ground. They were kennel panels clamped together to make a safe area for our dogs to run. Complaint dismissed. Nobody was really able to figure out what the "Temporary structures" complaint was about since we have none. He was possibly referring to the 10 x 10 dog runs with chain link tops where our dogs can be safely confined for exercise if we need to leave them outside unsupervised. There is no ordinance against a dog run. Complaint dismissed. The building inspector himself looked at the yard and the dogs and chickens and could see that everything was clean and well-kept. There was no foul odor. 5 of the 6 dogs were surgically debarked and the 6th dog never barks, so the neverending barking complaint was also invalid.
The building inspector cleared all the fence and building complaints himself. We had to go in front of the zoning board of appeals to get the presence of 6 dogs and chickens approved. We took an attorney.
For the chickens: She did an excellent job of laying out the argument for the MRTFA for the chickens and explaining why our chickens had the right to be there. We provided notarized letters from buyers as well as emails dating back several years showing we sold eggs at $3.50 a dozen to regular buyers. We provided a notarized letter from a neighbor who lived next to our property for 26 years who stated that the prior owner of our property owned a working farm with horses, goats and chickens and that we have owned chickens and sold eggs since we moved into the house in 2000. We provided the precedent case law from Papish showing that the ordinance against our chickens was a violation of our rights under the state law MRTFA. We provided the dated/time-stamped facebook messages from the bad neighbors wife showing that they had an issue with our no-trespassing sign and that 12 hours later there were multiple unfounded "anonymous" complaints against us when we refused to remove the sign.
For the dogs: The attorney had multiple valid arguments.
First - 5 of our 6 dogs were present prior to the ordinance changing and were thus grandfathered in and should be permitted to stay. Second - We had contacted both Macomb County AC and the Shelby city offices and asked what the dog limit was well before bringing our dogs home. Representatives from both offices assured us that there was no limit. Relying on their assurances, we went to a great deal of expense purchasing, raising and training multiple show dogs, including two that were imported from Europe. We were still relying on their assurances when we imported the 6th dog from Austria one month after the ordinance quietly changed in 2012.
A. We would not have invested this time and money without the officials' assurance that we were within our rights to do so.
B. The attorney pleaded Entrapment By Estoppel, which states that a defendant cannot be subject to criminal charges when an official advises the defendant that conduct is legal, and the defendant reasonably believes the official. This would be similar to throwing water on a man and arresting him for being wet (or telling us we can have as many dogs as we want and then charging us criminally for refusing to get rid of all but two).
C. Ex Post Facto laws are against both the state and Federal constitution and are a violation of our rights. An Ex Post Facto law is a law that is made after a crime is committed. When a law is made, you can only prosecute violators from the day it is created forward. If you pass a law against chewing gum in public because Chewy Chewerton drives you crazy with his gum cracking, you cannot go arrest him for the last five years of gum chewing in public. You can only arrest those who violate the law going forward.
D. Macomb County AC accepted our money and licensed all six of our dogs every year, without notifying us that we were not permitted to have more than two. In fact they sent us renewal forms for all six dogs a week before our hearing with the appeals board. Once again, reliance on a government official that what we were doing was legal.
E. The Shelby ordinance officer assured our attorney that they generally don't care how many dogs people have and do not enforce the 2 dog limit unless there is a complaint from neighbors. There was another case going on at the same time where a woman doing foster work was ordered to remove 11 special needs unlicensed foster dogs from her property and told she could retain the four dogs that were licensed to her personally. Her ability to keep four was in writing in a letter from the city. Our own original complaint letter from the city advised us that we had 5 days to remove ALL dogs and chickens from our property. For some reason, Shelby initially felt that we were not even entitled to keep two pet dogs as the rest of the citizens of Shelby are. The attorney argued (citing case law) unequal protection under the law as a violation of our constitutional rights. The foster dog lady was told she could keep 4 personal dogs. Other Shelby residents who did not have complaints against them could keep as many dogs as they wanted without fear of prosecution (as long as nobody complained) yet we were told we were not allowed to have any dogs. Constitutional violation.
So Shelby dragged their feet for six months and had their attorneys go over everything. In the end, they asked us to consider limiting the number of chickens while openly stating that they understood we do not have to. We agreed and said 18 chickens would be more than enough. They also allowed that we can continue to have our show dogs present on the property since we proved that we are more than capable of keeping our numbers low. They wanted assurances that we were not going to turn into a kennel with 30 dogs. We explained that we had no interest in owning more than 6 or 7 and they could see by our written history what dogs we had owned/licensed all the way back to the year 2000. We showed the number of dogs we had per year (based on our licensing history) and what happened to those dogs to show that while we do breed and raise show dogs, we retire them to nice pet homes when they are finished showing. We do not just keep accumulating dogs. Someone in the hearing room audience objected loudly, claiming we have puppies "all the time" and we are a puppy mill and the sheer number of puppies takes us over the 6-7 dog limit. We responded that we are not a puppy mill. We have one litter a year and not even every year and Shelby's own ordinance states that dogs under six months of age do not count in the numbers. Shelby agreed readily and basically stated that we can continue to show raise and breed our dogs as long as we continue to keep our numbers around 6 dogs and do not put signs out front stating puppies for sale. They provided us with a conditional use permit for both the chickens and the dogs.
The interesting thing is that I went to the city after the hearing was over and talked to one of the men on the hearing board. We had stayed away and allowed our soft-spoken attorney Linda to deal with the city during the 6 months ordeal. When I spoke with him after, I actually apologized for sending in an attorney and told him the outcome was just that important to us and we had to make sure it came out our way. He said he was very happy we had an attorney and we did everything right. We were polite and respectful at the preliminary meetings. We attended our hearings dressed respectfully (we wore suits) and we were calm and quiet. Our attorney was polite and pleasant even when she was introducing all the case law and citing why the city could not enforce their ordinances against us. He said all the fist banging and screaming and threats came from the "anonymous" complainant and the city could see from our 75 page argument and the stack of evidence we presented that we were the ones being harassed. They were obligated to look into the whole mess because they have to investigate every complaint but he said we made it very clear that we were not doing anything they were opposed to.
So I have to impress upon anyone who finds themselves in the same boat, stay calm, stay polite and pleasant and if you can afford it, get an attorney.
Threatening the city with a lawsuit only puts them on the defensive and makes you an enemy. Then they don't want you to succeed and they will do whatever they can to trip you up. The old adage is true. You can get more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.
Suzinka, one of the most important Right to Farm cases was fought in Shelby Twp, and demonstrated that Right to Farm protects even in residentially zoned areas. You do have to be commercial, which means you need to sell at least a few eggs and get receipts. And, you have to follow applicable generally accepted agricultural and management practices, which you probably already do. If you'd like more information, contact the Michigan Small Farm Council at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Links to MIchigan Right to Farm documents:
Links to MIchigan Right to Farm documents: