LARGO — Commissioners gave initial approval Dec. 15 to new rules that officials say could help the city crack down on nuisance animals.
Code Enforcement Manager Tracey Schofield said that some parts of the chapter of the city’s code of ordinances dealing with animals haven’t been updated since the 1970s, so it was due to get another look.
One of those sections deals with the keeping of backyard chickens. And some residents will be happy to learn that roosters are now banned.
Schofield said the city doesn’t get a lot of complaints about chickens, but when it does, it’s almost always about roosters making too much noise. While the city has frowned upon having backyard roosters, the code did not explicitly ban them.
The changes also increase the limit of backyard hens residents can keep to 12.
“A lot of people are raising chickens for meat and eggs and we thought that was appropriate to go ahead and increase that number so those folks could do that,” he said.
According to the code, coops must be kept in the back yard and be maintained. Also, chickens are not allowed at a duplex, triplex, townhomes, multifamily properties, or apartments.
Another section that was updated refers to nuisance animals, and Schofield said the changes give the section a little more teeth.
Because of a recent case involving a homeowner with dozens of birds, the city thought the ordinance needed to be stronger, he said.
Some of the changes make it unlawful to keep an animal that:
• barks, whines, howls or makes other noises so as to create a public nuisance
• chases vehicles, bikes, or people in a manner that could cause injury
• causes fouling of the air by odor, defecates on the property of another, or is offensive or dangerous to the public health
Schofield said he doesn’t expect the changes to increase the number of complaints the city receives, but they could help with some of them.
“If somebody’s got a dog that whines and barks all day long because they leave and go to work and it’s disturbing the neighbors who work at night and are trying to sleep, now we have a better tool to help them,” he said.
One more notable change to the section states that dogs must now be on leashes at parks unless at a dog park.
Schofield said the language in the code was vague before and that most times Parks and Recreation employees likely deal with any complaints on site before it reaches code officers.
“We felt that it was appropriate that if they’re in a city park, unless they are in a designated dog park area or the dog runs that some of the parks have in the city, that they need to be on a leash,” he said. “They need to be under control.”
Commissioners unanimously voted to approve the changes on first reading and a second and final public hearing will be held Tuesday, Jan. 19.