Friday, July 27, 2007
Pair of pet quackers divides Barnesville in city duck dispute
BARNESVILLE, Minn. – Winnie and Babbles are stirring up a political earth-quack here.
Opinions shake out like this:
Some see the 1-year-old ducks as harmless family pets who should be allowed to nest in Barnesville.
Others believe changing the city’s pet ordinance to allow ducks will open the door to potential problems.
“The next thing might be crocodiles,” said one woman who refused to give her name, a common response when people were asked about the pet issue Thursday.
Some aren’t happy about the attention Barnesville is getting over the debate.
“We kind of like our quiet town just to be quiet,” said Ivy Olson, who suggested that the ducks’ owners might have reviewed local ordinances before moving to Barnesville.
“They just moved to town. They are renting a house, so they aren’t residents here, and then they come in and they’re trying to change our laws?
“I don’t think that’s quite right,” said Olson, a lifelong resident of Barnesville.
The flap started in the spring after an animal control officer spotted Winnie and Babbles shortly after the ducks and their owners, Eric and Jeana Lanum, moved to Barnesville from Fargo.
Since then, the Lanums have pushed for a revamping of the city’s rules, which allow only dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters and caged birds as permissible household pets.
The City Council voted 5-1 in June against changing the law.
Officials told the family they wouldn’t consider a modification unless it’s shown that the public wants the change, Jeana Lanum said.
To that end, the Lanums have been gathering petition signatures, including about 15 secured during an all-day save-the-ducks rally Thursday at the couple’s home.
In total, about 150 Barnesville residents have signed petitions favoring an ordinance change, Jeana Lanum said, adding that they hope to get many more signatures before presenting the documents to city officials.
The family was given a deadline of Aug. 8 to get rid of the ducks.
The council’s next scheduled meeting is Aug. 13.
Jeana Lanum said they plan to call city officials Monday to ask that a special council meeting be held before Aug. 8.
Lanum said she isn’t sure what will happen if the deadline arrives before the issue is resolved.
She isn’t aware of any penalties for violating the ordinance.
“We can’t let them go, and we won’t,” Lanum said of the birds, which the Lanums and their children, ages 9 and 4, raised from ducklings.
Barnesville Mayor Ken Bauer said a special meeting won’t be necessary because he’s told the police chief to refrain from taking any action for now.
Bauer said it’s unclear just what steps could be taken if the ordinance is not followed, adding that the city has turned to a law firm to try to answer that question.
Bauer said City Council members do a good job of representing their wards and if strong support for an ordinance change exists, “it will be addressed,” he said.
Bauer said he has told the Lanums he would put the issue back on the agenda if they can get support from 35 households from each of the city’s three wards, which he said would represent roughly 10 percent of the town’s households.
Bauer said he is aware of another group of petitions being circulated that call for the ordinance to remain the way it is.
Bauer said 60 percent to 70 percent of the e-mails he has received on the issue back a change in the law. Most have come from people who don’t live in Barnesville, he said.
Bauer, who has a vote on the council only when there’s a tie, said the reason for a pet ordinance is to give the city a measure of control over what kind of animals may or may not be kept in town. He said ducks are not at the top of his list of worries.
Jeana Lanum said based on her contacts with residents, roughly 140 households have animals that violate the city pet ordinance.
“Ferrets, guinea pigs, snakes, iguanas – pretty much any pet you can go and buy at a pet store,” she said.