FORT ANN — A local law that was geared toward preventing farm animal abuse was killed Monday night at a Town Board meeting.
Reason being, farmers said they don’t abuse their livestock.
“We take care of our animals like we do our kids!” and, “We do not abuse our animals. I’ve got nine goats and sheep and they’re probably better taken care of than your family!” were among the remarks from residents.
Members of the audience accused the deputy supervisor, Deborah Witherell, of abusing her power by trying to pass a town-wide law over a personal beef with a neighbor.
“This is a blatant abuse of a public office” and, “Get a lawyer!” were a few comments directed at Witherell that met with applause.
Witherell proposed the law at the last town meeting in November and scheduled the public hearing for Monday.
Supervisor Richard Moore was absent from the November meeting due to surgery. It was the only meeting in 12 years he had missed, he said. He didn’t recall hearing any complaints about animal cruelty during his time on the board, he said.
The local law would have put new rules on corral measurements, manure disposal and wandering animals and included penalties for codes that were broken.
But the law was voted down 4-1, with Witherell the only one in favor.
Moore, Denny Fletcher, Gretchen Stark and Floyd Varney voted against the proposal.
The nearly 100 residents who turned out for the hearing in the school auditorium voiced opposition to the law and disappointment in Witherell.
“I think you are way off base here and totally out of touch in your own community, and I’m very disappointed you got elected to the board. I think the board should take more consideration to assigning a new deputy supervisor,” said Stacey Batchelder, to hollers and cheers from the audience.
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Catie Kamburelis said she has horses and a goat. To comply with the law, she would have had to move her barn and shelters.
“Who’s going to pay for that? Because I can’t ... So because I can’t come into compliance you’re going to fine me. I’m not going to pay your fine because I totally disagree with this whole thing. So now I’m going to go to jail. Now I just lost my job because I went to jail. Now I’m going to lose my house ... and if you think this is a stupid scenario, take a look at this ordinance and I’ll show you stupid,” Kamburelis said.
She was also applauded.
Witherell wasn’t available Tuesday afternoon for comment.
Witherell admitted at the November meeting that her push for the law was driven by an ongoing dispute with her neighbor, Adam Tracy. She has accused Tracy of contaminating her well water with E. coli bacteria from his cattle. Tracy has about 20 cows, bulls and heifers.
The proposed law includes a stipulation that livestock are prohibited if the owner has less than 1 acre of land. The owner also must have a minimum of 100 square feet of free space per animal, and house them 75 feet from any dwelling and 75 feet from any property line.
Resident Matt Jones called the proposal a personal vendetta and said the rules are ridiculous.
“I have 10 chickens right now … if I got 20 more chickens, (the coop) will be bigger than my house!” he said.
Shelters and barns would have had to be cleaned no less than daily and corrals and outdoor areas no less than once per seven days under the law. Manure disposal was regulated based on volume.
Residents said cows use manure to stay cool and it’s good for the soil.
“The mere fact everybody showed up here and wasted time is disgusting. You should have never let it come to here. You have a shallow well; take care of it,” a resident said to Witherell.
By 7:15 p.m. the ordinance had been voted down and although the Town Board meeting wasn’t finished, most people left.