Riverside looks to rewrite rules on urban chickens, bees, other animals


Riverside looks to rewrite rules on urban chickens, bees, other animals

The matter arises at a time when urban farming and locally-grown food are growing

Officially, the keeping of chickens, bees and racing pigeons has been relegated to Riverside’s large lots and rurally zoned areas.

But as interest in locally-sourced food and urban farming continues to grow, city leaders are debating whether to more broadly allow bees and chickens – and the pigeons may come along for the ride.

City planners are working on an overhaul of animal rules in the zoning code that would clear up discrepancies or omissions regarding rabbits, pigeons, dog kennels and catteries, and could make bee- and chicken-keeping legal in much more of the city.

A March 9 planning commission meeting on the topic was the first step. The issue goes next to a council committee in May, and eventually to the full council for a vote.

Cities around the country and locally, including Corona and Murrieta, permit backyard chickens within certain limits.

Riverside Councilman Mike Gardner, whose Ward 1 includes downtown and the Wood Streets, pressed to review the chicken policy after hearing from a resident who didn’t know the family’s pet chickens were illegal until code enforcement showed up at their home last year.

“I’ve heard from more people who are pro-chicken than anti,” Gardner said, noting that roosters – already restricted over noise concerns – wouldn’t be part of any expanded chicken-keeping rights.

A debate is sure to ensue. At the planning commission, resident Marlene Mossestad expressed her objections to urban chickens.

“I don’t want to hear them, I don’t want to smell their feces and I don’t want to be chasing flies,” she said. “Allowing chickens will only benefit those wanting the chickens.”

The proposed revisions also are expected to clean up conflicting rules about where people may keep racing pigeons and rabbits, and to explain the requirements for having more cats or dogs than current caps allow.

To keep more than four dogs or nine cats, the city requires a permit for a “residential kennel” or a “cattery,” but the rules don’t explain what those are.

Some residents are urging the city to write in an exception to the rules for people who foster animals in need of homes.

Leslie Holzrichter runs the Riverside-based nonprofit Foster Army Animal Rescue. It finds temporary places for animals she said are “most at risk of being euthanized” at the county shelter, such as those with burn injuries or an amputation who face a long recovery before they can be adopted.

Some volunteers foster whole litters of kittens or puppies, and many already have pets of their own, Holzrichter said, so they might run afoul of the city’s limits if there’s no exception for short-term fostering.

Finally, the changes suggested by city staff would forbid the sale of pets except those that come from a shelter, humane society or licensed breeder. Gardner said the goal is to discourage “puppy mills,” which churn out dogs for sale with little regard for the health and welfare of the breeding mothers or their litters.

In Riverside County, a special license is not required to breed dogs, but it is needed to sell them, Gardner said. A commercial breeder would likely also need a residential kennel permit.

Animals allowed?

Riverside mainly restricts most non-domestic animals to areas with rural or agricultural zoning, but proposed new rules could change that.

What’s affected: Potential rule changes touch on rabbits, racing pigeons, chickens and bees.

What’s new: Officials could decide to allow chickens, bees and pigeons to be kept in residential neighborhoods.

Tweaks: Existing rules are confusing on where rabbits are allowed and under what circumstances; they also don’t explain what residential kennels or catteries are, even though permits for those are required if people have more than four dogs or nine cats.

What’s next: The council’s land use committee is expected to take up the issue in May, and it will return to the planning commission for a hearing this summer.


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