A Lethbridge resident is challenging enforcement of a bylaw prohibiting chickens from being kept in urban neighbourhoods.
Gilles Leclair was issued an order on Oct. 20 to get rid of his backyard chickens before Nov. 13. It states he could face a fine of up to $10,000 or prison not more than one year if he does not comply.
He was given the opportunity to appeal to council at the Nov. 28 meeting, looking to get rid of the contravention. He told council he was aware he was breaking the bylaw, but he has kept chickens for years anyway.
“I also was aware the city is complaint driven and I was counting on not having any complaints because certainly my nearby neighbours didn’t have any complaints and when this one came through it was, more or less, a joke,” he said. “None of my neighbours even knew that I have chickens until I told them a full 12 months after obtaining them.”
Leclair said he believes the single complaint against him should be thrown away because he believes it was based on false reasoning. He said he has never kept a rooster, there is no noise from his chickens and any neighbours close to his property are supportive. Two witnesses spoke in favour of Leclair at the meeting.
City administration is working on reviewing animal bylaws and investigating whether backyard chickens should be allowed. That work is not expected to be completed until mid to late 2024.
Council had few questions for Leclair, mostly focusing on whether or not he knew he was breaking the bylaw. Leclair told council he has kept chickens for more than four winters before the complaint brought them to the city’s attention. He also invited council to go to his property and see how they are kept before making a decision on the enforcement.
No decision was made at the meeting and council will deliberate in a meeting closed to the public. A decision is expected to be voted on at the next council meeting on Dec. 12.
“I think it simply comes down to the fact that we have a bylaw in place. Some of these other questions are something we are going to be looking into,” said regulatory services manager Duane Ens. “This is one issue out in the community that there’s not too many agnostic opinions on this one. Some people really, really do not want to have chickens in their community and others feel that this is a right and they can do and they can do it healthy and clean.”