Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Denver Triples Some of Its Fees for Food-Producing Animals

A few days ago we celebrated a happy anniversary at our house -- one year since bringing the chickens (well, at that time they were baby chicks) home. Unfortunately, since we have yet to change Denver's ordinances regarding Food-Producing Animals, it also meant that it was time for me to go to Animal Control and renew my permit.

Last year I paid $50 for a general Livestock Permit, which covered my hen chickens and dwarf goats. (Incidentally, I also paid $100 for a zoning variance.) I understood that the Livestock Permit has to be renewed annually.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at Animal Control and was told that the cost to renew my permit would no longer be $50 -- now it's $150.

See, Animal Control submitted new rates for many of its services to City Council, who approved the increases. The new rates went into effect September 1, 2009. Now, a chicken-only permit costs $50. A goat permit costs $100. If you have both, you better cough up $150. In other words, if you own a goat your permit fees doubled, and if you maintain chickens and goats then your fees tripled. I understand that Animal Control raised the rates on many things, but I don't imagine that any of the other fees doubled or tripled.

My friend Derec pointed out that those of us who pay into this system aren't getting a good value from the city for our money. Remember, last year I went through a lengthy zoning process and paid a total of $150 for the "privilege" of keeping a few small animals in my backyard. I went a full year without any complaints -- my animals did not create any work for Animal Control or Zoning. And now, after a year without problems, I need to pay an additional $150.

Urban Food-Producing Animals are a way for people to supply their families with affordable, healthy food. And now, during a recession, the city of Denver wants to make the permits even more expensive?

What do you think about this? Is a double or triple rate increase fair to people who are just trying to sustainably produce a little food? Should we even have such an extensive permitting process for urban FPAs, or should we allow a limited number as a use-by-right (like cats and dogs)?



23 comments:

Brother Josh said...

I've got a nice side-yard on my corner-lot house that I'm looking forward to using as a garden area, and chickens would be great for me. The one reason I haven't pursued it is the onerous and costly process for permitting and approvals. Raising the rates definitely keeps me from having the chickens I want in my garden!

Melissa said...

I am really interested in raising chickens and other small food-producing animals. Not only would it benefit my family, but it would also benefit 1) my property and 2) the human race (i.e. compost, less waste, etc...). However, fee increases make it that much harder and less likely for others to follow in our footsteps. This particular situation is definitely unfortunate.

P said...

Home raised chickens produce eggs that are tasty and healthier, goats raised at home are only fed the best and therefore produce healthier milk - it seems like the city is trying to price it so that people are forced into buying less nutritional versions which will impact our future health and encourages big business. I do not approve.

Brenda said...

I think it's ridiculous and I just told the city so using their survey. I was looking for info on the fees and found that the city has a page discussing the potential change to the chicken ordinance and fees. Just a few questions and a place to share comments. Go tell them what you think!

http://www.denvergov.org/CitywideNewsandIssues/Chickens/tabid/435196/Default.aspx

Debbie D said...

As a I type I am listening to the incessant 'woof, woof, woof' (always in 3s : ) of my neighbors dog. It's non-stop. There is no permit cost for his useless pet to annoy me. If he had chickens, I wouldn't even know it.

The onerous permitting process for food producing animals increases the potential for people to just go around it and get chickens anyway ultimately causing the city more work when they have to respond to calls from the occasional neighbor who wants to be difficult.

There is no reason it should cost money for me to get a few chickens when my neighbor's dog can bark all day long and produce nothing with no permit.

Blogger Grrl said...

Words like "onerous," "ridiculous," and "egregious," come to mind. It's crazypants.

juju's photos said...

I am very disturbed that the City of Denver would use sustainability practices to gauge more money out of their residents. Denver says it is a green, environmentally friendly city, yet they turn around and pull this one out of their hat. I agree with one of the other people who posted that the incessant barking of my neighbor's dogs should require THEM to pay a frigging $150 fee to have them in their backyard. Uncool, hypocritical and extremely unfair.

CW-G said...

How completely counterintuitive to raise the fees -- indeed to punish those individuals who dare to attempt to manage their carbon footprints -- for such a beneficial act. This is really disturbing. We are in the permitting process at present and have received nothing but support from neighbors and friends; it looks like the city equates livestock with carcinogens and junk food. Nice.

Celia said...

This is why I live in Arvada and work in Denver. None of my neighbors have any problem with my 6 chickens, and they are enjoying the eggs. Sorry Denver... no taxes for you!

brynwulf said...

I imagine Animal Control is jumping on the "sustainable" bandwagon and see a way to make more money than they ever imagined from food animal permits. When it wasn't as popular, there was no reason to raise the cost. YMMV

Momma Bear said...

Outrageous! A dog license is only $15 dollars a year, and, much as I love mine, they are much more of a nuisance than chickens or goats! We've eagerly been waiting for permit reform to get our own hens, but there's no way we can afford these higher fees! And what are they for? What is the possible justification? Chickens and dairy goats are quiet, non-toxic, sustainable, and of great value to their owners.

Ava said...

Ask Animal Control what are the majority of animal calls they have to respond to; I bet the response is "dogs". I like dogs too, but they are way more work for the city than goals and chicks. This is a money grab, and completely negates the financial benefits of raising your own food. It would take several boxes of store bought eggs to make up that price!

--Ava

Live Deep said...

It's just so nonsensical! It's tantamount to the city saying that it does NOT want its residents to be well and thrive in a sustainable way that benefits everyone. Making it easy and affordable for people to keep food-producing animals would be such an easy, practical, genuine way to bolster people's lives and wellbeing.

Ingrid said...

It seems the City of Denver is charging outrageous permit fees for keeping food-producing animals to make money first and foremost, but also to discourage urban agriculture. Many residents cannot afford these fees and are left with no choice but to buy poor quality food shipped in from other counties, states, or nations. And those of us who have paid our permit fees and are responsibly keeping a few chickens or goats on our properties, we get fresh eggs and milk, but we receive absolutely no specific city services in return for the permit fees.

By penalizing people who want to produce healthy food in their own yard, the City of Denver is discouraging healthy eating, adding to the national obesity epidemic, contributing to the inhumane treatment of animals in factory farms, and causing more greenhouse gas production. This may sound a little dramatic, but imagine a few hundred thousand people producing and eating their own food – this would result in better human health, less health care costs, less wasted resources, less demand for factory-farmed food, and reduced greenhouse gas pollution caused by shipping food across the nation or even in from other nations.

The City of Denver must finally take a progressive, healthy position on urban agriculture. Allow residents to raise a few chickens and a couple goats with no permit. At the very least, charge a reasonable permit fee (less than $30) and give us something in return for our permit fees, such as an annual visit from a qualified agriculture specialist (not a dog catcher) to check up on the welfare of the animals.

Katherine said...

Charging $150 to own a few food producing animals is extortion. Your friend Derec is right. The citizens of Denver get nothing in return for this fee. It is mystifying that Denver purports itself to be a "green" city, when it has yet to develop a progressive local, sustainable food policy. Keeping FPAs is critical for people who wish to take responsibility for the financial and physical wellbeing of their families. We should not be held hostage by a corporate food system that abuses animals and produces unhealthy food because our government erred in the development of its fee structure. The sole purpose of the government is to protect the public health, safety and welfare. Levying this absurd fee on FPAs violates the city's powers. We should be allowed a reasonable number of FPAs by right. If the city wants to raise fees it should increase fines for people who violate health standards or abuse animals.

It is absurd that dog owners only pay $15 for a dog liscence. Dogs bark loudly, roam the neighborhood and they are definitely not leaving eggs in my yard. Don't get me wrong, I love dogs, but they have a public impact and there should be a fee associated with their ownership. Backyard Food Producing Animals do not have the same public impact. They make very little noise (what noise they do make is subtle/ambient), they do not roam the neighborhood and the urban farmers bear all the responsibility for clean-up. I'm about as commie, liberal, socialist as they come, I rarely encounter a tax or fee that does not make at least some sense to me. This fee is absurd and obstructionist. Rather than throwing up road blocks, the government should be doing everything it can to get out of the way on this one and start doing more to encourage local food security and access to healthy food. It is our right to freely gain access to our basic needs without government interference.

M said...

I live in a food desert. Its 4 miles to the closest grocery store, an hour at least by bus. However, its an 8 minute walk to Pizza Hut, McDonalds and Churches Chicken. Not surprisingly, a lot of my neighbors are obese and suffer diabetes and heart disease.
I don't expect to save the world with a garden and couple of chickens and a goat, but I can be an example to my neighbors of how to lead a healthier and more self sufficient lifestyle. A lot of these Denver 'non profits' have strong opinions on how to help the disadvantaged communities and their incipient health problems. I say what better way to bring a community together than through the hard work and satisfaction of providing your own healthy food? What fosters community spirit better than helping each other struggle with the same issues of vegetable growing and chicken rearing? No one here is saying they want to start up a noxious chicken or goat farm in the city limits, Denver. We just want to develop a healthy community based on the traditional human activities of food production. It seems idiotic to me to make a lifestyle centered on hard work and healthy food cost prohibitive while fast food and drugs get cheaper by the day. What kind of town are you trying to foster, Denver?

Sundari said...

This was emailed to me from Susan Shepherd (candidate for City Council District #1):

"I think the raising of fees on food-producing animals in this manner is extremely unfair, especially to low-income families trying to improve their nutrition as well as their economic self-sufficiency. Research shows that families can save several hundred dollars a year by having food-producing animals in their backyards, and charging such high permitting fees will highly disincentivize them to seek out this valuable option. I am very supportive of changing our current permitting regulations to a 'use-by-right' regulation to give all families an oppotunity for increased economic self-sufficiency as well as improved access to healthier, more nutritious foods."

Sundari said...

Comment from Sustainable Food Denver's Facebook post of this blog article, from Elle:

"It's my understanding that the MOST it costs to license a dog in same city is $15 and you can do it online. The process to have a couple of chickens is ridiculously complicated, and outrageously expensive. The process includes inspections, and a review process complete with public opinion for each and every permit applied for. Anyone can look at the Denver gov't page to read about this. Sustainability is not usually created with dogs and cats. And chickens are not typically the trouble-makers for Animal Control. How can this unbalanced discrimination be justified?"

Sundari said...

Comment from Sustainable Food Denver's Facebook post of this blog article, by Grace-Ann:

"I agree with Elle. I live in a neighborhood with too many dogs. Why should animals that produce eggs and milk be discouraged when animals that just produce A LOT of poop live in every other house. Talk about a health hazard! I'm always scouring the parks near us for poop so my children can play in the grass."

Sundari said...

Comment from Sustainable Food Denver's Facebook post of this blog article, by Patricia:

"How very unfortunate indeed and so counter productive for Denver. You would think, after purporting to be green etc. etc...they would do what they could to support such an endeavor. The more I deal with the City and County of Denver under other cirmcumstances, I am ever so thankful for living in Conifer instead. To tax and raise fees to make it impossible for those trying to be sustainable is just plain wrong!"

Sundari said...

Comment from Sustainable Food Denver's Facebook post of this blog article, by Billie Jean:

"I was born and raised in Denver and I think it is sad the city government can't appreciate what people are trying to do to make things better. Nothing like trying to discourage folks from doing a good thing huh!!!!! I don't think discontent is strong enough, I think it is more of an outrage."

Sundari said...

Comment from Sustainable Food Denver's Facebook post of this blog article, by Maggie:

"This is the exact reason people in this country are beginning to be fed up with their Government. The more it tries to regulate EVERYTHING the more of a Tyranny it becomes."

Sundari said...

Emailed to me by Eric:

I hope the city council will reconsider creating this new obstacle to urban food production. Local food producers are hearing and acting on concerns about the recession, the safety of industrial food,and the dependence of our system on rapidly depleting resources. Municipalities should be doing all they can to promote local food self-reliance, those with the foresight to act now will be glad they did.