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Juniper Hills roosters must go by year’s end, says council

Owner to appeal to ombudsman
0611 ChickenFight 6089 km
ROOSTERS MUST GO — Sturgeon County council upheld an enforcement order on Nov. 30, 2021 that required Samantha Dobler (right, with hen) to remove roosters from her property. Also shown here is Stacey Czarencki (with rooster), a neighbour of Dobler who also had a rooster. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

A Juniper Hills chicken owner will have to find a new home for her roosters by the end of the year now that county council has upheld an enforcement order banning her from having them.

Sturgeon County council voted 5-1 (Coun. Matthew McLennan opposed) to uphold an enforcement order issued to Juniper Hills landowners Aaron and Samantha Dobler requiring them to remove roosters from their property. They also changed the deadline to do so from Oct. 18 to Dec. 31, 2021.

County council passed its revised Animal Control Bylaw in October 2020. Section 5.4 of that law states, “No owner or hen keeper shall keep a rooster.”

In his written submission to council, county fire chief Pat Mahoney said bylaw officers got noise complaints about roosters on the Dobler property in May 2021. Officers confirmed the roosters were there and told the landowners they had to remove the birds under the bylaw. Administration received further complaints about the birds in the following months, as the birds were not removed. Officers issued the Doblers an order to remove the birds on Sept. 17, which the Doblers appealed to council.

Speaking to council, Samantha Dobler said bylaw officers told her she could keep roosters before they bought the property in 2019, and that the roosters were not an issue before a new neighbour started complaining about them.

Dobler argued that Section 5.4 did not apply to her lands as that section is listed under part of the bylaw dedicated to urban hens, which applies to residential properties smaller than 2.47 acres. (The law says such properties may not host livestock, poultry, or fowl, except for urban hens.) Her property is three acres and regulated under Section 7 of the law, which allows owners to host “livestock” such as “ducks, turkeys, chickens, pheasants, geese or other similar fowl” on their lands.

In his written submission, Mahoney argued that Section 5.4 applied because it included both “owner,” defined as anyone who owned any animal in the county, and “hen keeper,” defined as someone who specifically owned urban hens. He said this provision would not have specified owners and hen keepers if it only applied to hen keepers, and was therefore a broad, blanket prohibition on roosters on lands governed by the law, including the Dobler lands. People on lands bigger than 2.47 acres can indeed keep many types of animals, but not roosters.

Mahoney also rejected Dobler’s argument that the bylaw conflicts with the provincial Agricultural Operation Practices Act. Said act applies to court actions brought against agricultural operations on the grounds of nuisance, which is not happening here.

“This is not about chickens or the size of the property,” Mahoney told council.

“It is just simply the fact that the bylaw states no owner or hen keeper shall keep a rooster.”

In an interview, Dobler said she would comply with the enforcement order to avoid a fine but plans to ask the Alberta ombudsman to investigate administration’s application of the bylaw.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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