Kent City Council postpones decision to ban roosters

Several residents tell council, staff they oppose proposed ban

Courtesy File Photo, Regional Animal Services of King County

Courtesy File Photo, Regional Animal Services of King County

Roosters might not be banned in the city of Kent after all.

Residents raised enough noise about a potential rooster ban that the City Council halted a proposal to prohibit the birds and asked staff to return later this year with more options.

The council had the zoning code amendment to prohibit roosters on its Tuesday, May 11 Committee of the Whole agenda but rather than moving the item forward for adoption at the regular council meeting May 18, the council decided it wanted more information and resident feedback prior to making a decision.

“I’m a Southern boy and I would hear roosters a lot,” Councilmember Bill Boyce said. “I’m not in favor of a complete ban. …I’m not in a rush to do this. Let’s hear more from the public, from both sides of the equation before we take action.”

City staff brought the measure to the council because of noise complaints by neighbors to the birds. But staff said that the noise ordinance was difficult to enforce by code enforcement officers unless they witnessed the roosters crowing. The proposed ban would only require an officer to see the bird.

A couple of residents also spoke in favor of the ban at an April 26 Land Use and Hearing Board public hearing in an effort to help get rid of the dozens of roosters raised by a neighbor who reportedly raises the birds for cockfighting. That man has been charged with animal fighting by the King County Prosecuting Attorneys’s Office and faces a July 28 trial date. Cockfighting is illegal in the state. People bet on which bird will win a fight.

After an article appeared in the May 7 Kent Reporter and on the paper’s website that the Land Use and Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend that the council ban roosters, council members and city staff began to receive emails from residents opposed to the ban.

The Kent Reporter article generated more public comment, city planner Sam Alcorn told the council. He said one resident responded that roosters can help protect baby chicks from coyotes and eagles and suggested a limit on the number of roosters rather than a ban. And a rooster rehome group said there are not enough places to take roosters, so the birds that owners would have to remove would probably be killed.

“With the removal of roosters, what do we expect individuals to do with their roosters,” Councilmember Satwinder Kaur said. “We have got a lot of emails opposing a rooster ban. I’m trying to figure this out, how to go about it.”

The ban, if approved, would have given people 30 days to get rid of their roosters.

The cities of Auburn and Renton ban roosters while Federal Way limits the birds to certain land-use zones, Alcorn said.

But in light of the public comments against a ban, Alcorn said staff wanted to hear from the council about what steps to take next.

“I need some more information,” Councilmember Marli Larimer said. “I know nothing about fowl, do they all crow at 5 a.m.? I lean to a more nuanced approach. How many (roosters) do we have in Kent and how loud are they? I’d like more information and more options.”

Kaur wondered how many noise complaints about roosters the city actually gets in a year.

“My neighbors have them, I hardly hear them,” Kaur said. “They don’t bother me but everybody is different. I

favor a limit or more feedback from community.”

Derek Matheson, city chief administrative officer, said he will have staff post items to social media to get more public feedback and encourage residents to comment at council meetings on May 18 and June 1. He said staff will gather more information and return later in the year with more options, including a potential limit to how many roosters a person can have or zones where roosters can be owned.

“We will continue this discussion at a later time and not move it forward (to the May 18 council agenda),” Council President Toni Troutner said after the discussion.

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