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Chicken Debate Returns to East Greenville
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2024-06-04

            For the first time in several years, East Greenville Council discussed chickens Monday. A resident of State Street is requesting permission to keep one animal for emotional support.

            Since chickens are not allowed in the borough, the resident is seeking reasonable accommodation to keep one, according to Solicitor Michael Peters. Council, which took no action on the matter, seeks additional information. Member John Dingler described the matter as related to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

            "That's why it's being considered," he said after the public meeting.

            According to Member John Dingler, the municipality received a letter from a licensed therapist – on behalf of the resident – on April 24. Dingler said it informed council that the resident wanted permission to keep a chicken, Matilda, for emotional support.

            Jim Fry, the borough's manager and code enforcement officer, told the members that he received a phone call from a doctor asking if the municipality allowed emotional support chickens.

            Last week, council sent Fry to the residence to investigate. Fry told the member he believed he saw three chickens at the property.

            According to the manager, the resident is required to submit a letter seeking permission to keep a chicken. Fry told the members that a new letter would be necessary for every additional animal he wanted to keep.

            Alison Palmer expressed her support for granting the reasonable accommodation. In a text message received Tuesday morning, the member claimed ESA chickens have been found to be highly beneficial for individuals with multiple disabilities like ADHD, autism, depression, and PTSD. She writes that they are calming, provide sensory input, companionship, and are hypoallergenic.

            "In many ways they are easier to tend and less costly than other ESA animals such as cats or dogs," Palmer wrote in the message.

            In 2018, council received a similar request from a resident. The members crafted a 12-page ordinance that would have permitted only 30 property owners to keep chickens.

            The language of the ordinance limited the number of any female chickens that could be kept on a property to three and specified that they had to be stored in a chicken coop or chicken pen at all times only in a rear yard. It stated that the coop must be located at least 20 feet from the property line and at least 30 feet from any adjacent building not owned by the permittee.

            The ordinance required that any pens must be constructed of wood or metal posts with wire mesh fencing material, contain at least 10 square feet of area per chicken, rise at least four feet above the ground, and be buried at least one foot below the ground. However, the ordinance did not address therapeutic issues.

            On April 18, 2018, council approved the ordinance. Marita Thomson and Lon Brinckman II voted against it. However, 12 days later, Mayor Keith Gerhart vetoed it.  He confirmed the presence of four or five chickens at a residence on Main Street.


 

 

 

 

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