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Detroit officials consider whether to allow animals such as rabbits, goats on urban farms


DETROIT — Detroit officials are working on an ordinance that would allow some residents and urban farmers to raise egg-laying chickens, ducks, rabbits and goats legally within the city limits.

Detroit City Councilman James Tate, who plans to sponsor the ordinance, said that the animals offer the community "the chance to know clearly where their food is coming from." Details are being worked out, but Tate said City Council could vote on the issue in March.

The goal is to allow homeowners and urban farmers to raise animals safely while also making sure neighbors aren't upset, the Detroit Free Press reported (http://on.freep.com/1X8qRdg ). Detroit has many urban farms, but city laws technically don't allow for such animals.

Mark Covington of the Georgia Street Community Collective on the city's east side is among those who have been raising animals in the city for years. His crops include collards, broccoli and spinach, but he also has beehives, nearly 30 chickens and a separate, larger pen with goats.

Covington said his neighbors have never complained, but added that: "I don't want to continue being illegal."

Detroit's livestock rules have led to some disputes, such as when Idyll Farms in the city's Brightmoor neighborhood was told to remove its goats shortly after launching, at the risk of facing a $500 fine per goat. Plans were to plan to fatten them on uncut weeds and grass.

Melvin "Butch" Hollowell, the city's top lawyer, said he is open to the idea of allowing livestock and said a pilot program might be a good first step.

"There's a demand for it," he added, "It's just gotta be done right."

Tate said the biggest challenge will be convincing the public that this won't involve "farm animals running rampant," nor will it involve commercial slaughterhouses.

"This is not about jobs," he told the newspaper. "This is about community building ... and giving people the power to determine the future of their neighborhoods."

Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

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