Haverhill Health Board Creates Permit Process for Keeping Some Farm Animals as Pets

Baby chicken. (CC)

Beginning next week, Haverhill residents will be able to seek a permit keep chickens and maybe some other farm animals as pets.

The Haverhill Board of Health begins accepting applications from residents who wish to keep one or more animals as part of, what the board called, “the growing national trend for responsible, small scale agricultural protection.” Health Board Chairman Peter Carbone told WHAV the new regulations are intended to keep up with the times.

“There are a lot of residents of the city that like to raise chickens or other small, domesticated animals and we needed a safe way for that to happen,” he explained.

Attorney Paul A. Magliocchetti illustrated how changes in the city’s makeup as it grew over the years has contributed to confusion. He explained how a longtime resident of the Bradford section of the city found herself fending off a neighbor’s complaint.

“She’s had chickens, goats and a couple of dogs for years. They’re her pets. They’re not running a farm or anything. They’re her pets.” he said.

While helping his client resolve the matter, Magliocchetti said he and City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. learned the local dispute is also playing out elsewhere. “Lots of cities and towns are now passing these ordinances to allow for certain kinds of animals—notably chickens or poultry—going into residential neighborhoods under certain conditions,” he said.

Carbone agreed, what’s old is new again. “No one had a problem with animals in the backyard. In fact, more people had them than didn’t. Over the last 70 years, that’s changed completely,” he said.

Carbone said recent Health Board action simplifies the matter by allowing residents to keep of less than seven chickens, for example, after completing a simple application, paying a $25 fee and obtaining administrative approval from City Hall.

Magliocchetti said the quantity was selected for a reason. “What we learned at the meeting is they sell chickens in batches of six. You wouldn’t have to destroy two of them every time you bought some,” he explained.

The rule does not apply to roosters or cockerel. The male birds may be permitted, however, on a case-by-case basis, but never within a residential urban, residential high or residential medium density zone.

Other home animal requests may require a full public hearing before the board.

Although applications will be accepted, permits won’t be granted until after the City Council holds a hearing in May to make zoning ordinances compatible.

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