By Joel Hall
The City of Jonesboro will hold a special meeting today at 10 a.m., to discuss, and possibly amend, the city's ordinance regarding livestock.
The action comes amidst public discussion about the severity of the ordinance, particularly as it relates to the ownership of chickens.
During a regular business meeting on Sept. 14, city officials were confronted by citizens who came to the defense of Willis Swint, owner of Swint's Feed and Garden Supply, and a long-time resident of Jonesboro. On Sept. 10, Jonesboro code enforcement officials told Swint, 80, that he had 15 days to remove 20 chickens kept in a hen house on his property on North McDonough Road in Jonesboro.
"Tomorrow is the deadline," Swint said on Thursday. "I'll either have to get rid of them by then, or they will give me a citation to go to court."
According to Swint, the Swint family has operated Swint's Feed and Garden Supply for 76 years. He said the family property has housed hundreds of chickens since the early 1930s.
"We've had chickens at that place, on and off, since 1933," he said. "At one time, we hit 200 [chickens], but now we have 20." All of the chickens have names, such as "Aunt Bee," "Miss Crump," "Tina Turner," "Minnie Pearl," and "Ellie Mae," he said.
"We have 4.29 acres and the chickens are right in the middle of it," Swint added. "The only way you can see it is if you go on the property."
On Sept. 14, Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox told citizens concerned about chicken ownership that the "city can't pick and choose" the ordinances it enforces.
The Jonesboro city code defines "livestock" as "poultry, cattle, swine, horses, mink, rabbits, sheep, goats or similar classes of animals excluding domestic animal kept as pets."
Chapter 14 of the ordinance, referring to animal control, contains measures for how the city deals with "dangerous dogs," but does not specify how the city deals with citizens who keep livestock as pets.
On Thursday, city officials were mum about what sections of the city's ordinance regarding livestock could potentially be changed.
"I don't know what they are going to change," said Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox. "You'll just have to come to the city council meeting tomorrow."