City Workers Catch Chickens Flying the Coop in Florida - NBC Bay Area
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City Workers Catch Chickens Flying the Coop in Florida

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Laws about who can and cannot have chickens are creating a lot of confusion in South Florida.

    (Published Wednesday, May 3, 2017)

    It’s an age old question – Why did the chicken cross the street? Homeowner Jon Dunleavy believes he has the answer. “It’s to get to South Miami,” said Dunleavy.

    Chickens aren’t allowed at Dunleavy’s home in southern Miami Dade County, but they are allowed across the street from where he lives in South Miami. He lives on the border of both municipalities. Dunleavy said he didn’t know that when his family rescued four chickens and he built a coop for them in his back yard. A county worker showed up at his house recently and told the family they had to get rid of the animals.

    “It’s like losing a family pet,” said Jon Dunleavy. “We’re dumbfounded as to whoever had a problem with them or why they had a problem, we wish they would’ve come to us and we could’ve worked it out but now the county is involved and now we have to get rid of them,“ he said.

    Backyard chicken laws change depending on where you live in South Florida and where your location also changes how the laws are enforced.

    The city of Hollywood is taking a family to court over their backyard animals. Frank Johnston has numerous backyard chickens, in addition to turkeys and ducks.

    “These pets give me solitude,” said Johnston. “It makes me want to cry that they want to take this away from me."

    Meanwhile, in the city of Miami, there are so many loose chickens running flying and crossing the streets, city workers are paid to catch them. They’re called the Chicken Busters. The members of the Neighborhood Enforcement Team patrol city streets every Friday morning with their nets in hand, trying to capture the animals on public property.

    “They’re pretty fast and they have a way of getting away from us,” said worker Gary Lafaille.

    NBC 6 cameras captured the workers running and falling trying to catch the loose chickens and roosters throughout the Wynwood and Little Haiti areas of the city.

    “It’s a good workout, so every time I go out, I get my exercise,” said Lafaille.

    The group’s tries to focus most on catching roosters due to their early morning wake up calls. Roosters are banned in the city, but chickens are allowed in some areas only if you have a permit. But NBC 6 discovered not a single person in the entire city has a permit despite the fact that dozens of families have backyard chickens. A city attorney said, it’s an old law written more than three decades ago to help keep people safe. It is enforced when someone files a complaint. Plus, Lafaille and his workers try to take a proactive approach while patrolling the streets.

    “If you’re going to have them and you’re going to raise them, then you have to abide by the rules.”

    The city said most homeowners are first given a warning, but repeated violations can lead to hefty fines. The number of chickens and roosters captured by the chicken busters is rising. They captured 88 loose chickens in public areas in 2015. That’s compared to 146 chickens so far this year alone.

    City and County leaders said chickens can transmit diseases and be hazardous if not cared for properly.