Mr. Clucky, a Miami Beach rooster and his poultry guardian, Mark Buckley, are caught in a fowl-smelling court battle. You see, this is no ordinary matter: it's a 'chick-evict' case.
Legal feathers are flying in this code enforcement fight brought by the City of Miami Beach. The City wants Mr. Clucky out of Buckley's residential apartment, charging that he violates a city ordinance that prohibits poultry . Yesterday's proceeding ended in a dispute over witness testimony -- or rather the lack of it. Mr. Clucky didn't even get to testify in his own defense, and Buckley is crying foul.
Special Master Joe Kaplan presided over yesterday's court hearing, and rejected Buckley's plea that Mr. Clucky was his "number one witness in this case."
"No, the bird is not going to be your witness, sir," Kaplan ruled.
Like most municipalities, Miami Beach has governing what kinds of animals can be kept in residential areas. Under Miami Code Section 10-15, residents are prohibited from keeping farm animals like chickens:
It shall be prohibited for any person to keep, stable, harbor or maintain any horse, poultry, livestock or farm animals in any district, provided, however, that nothing herein contained shall be construed so as to prohibit the keeping, stabling, harboring or maintaining of any horse, poultry, livestock or farm animals in such districts for public events such as circuses, shows and similar events, or in any special cases, for temporary periods of time, as approved by the city manager or his/her designee, in writing, in advance of such events.
Miami Beach argued that the law requires Mr. Clucky and his hen-friend Wallflower to get the cluck out of Buckley's studio apartment.
But it's not that simple. Mr. Clucky is a South Beach icon and celebrity in his own right. Buckley rescued him after discovering him abandoned in the bushes. He rides with his fine-feathered friend on tricycle handlebars in Miami Beach, and regularly appears at animal rights events, local schools, and bicycle rallies.
Buckley testified that he's "not keeping poultry. These are two birds. They are fowl, but a poultry is a bird specifically raised for food or profit on a farm, and these are basically animals that I'm keeping as pets."
The Special Master Joe Kaplan, ruled that Mr. Clucky and his hen-friend Wallflower are 'poultry,' in violation of the Miami City Ordinance, and ruled that they must go.
But are there other legal avenues that Mr. Clucky could pursue? Federal law protects people and their service animals who are trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities. This not only includes guide dogs to help guide the blind, but also animals that are trained to help calm people in stressful situations.
Perhaps Mr. Clucky needs to find some pro bono counsel willing to give the rooster some legal aid. Perhaps an experienced pet eviction defense lawyer, animal rights, or Miami Beach landlord-tenant lawyer could help.