By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — There are places in town where animals roam freely throughout the neighborhood.
That’s why the Planning Board is looking at updating the town’s livestock ordinance to make sure rules are in place when it’s time to control those animals.
Animal Control Officer Marlene Bishop is helping update Derry’s animal laws for enforcement when animal owners aren’t following the rules.
“The last accepted ordinance was very inefficient in the rules and specifics of what could be allowed and now allowed,” Bishop said.
That was back in 2008.
Bishop has seen it all.
“There are chickens running around the neighborhood, roosters crowing at all hours of the day and night, horses running at large and pigs where they don’t belong in the middle of town,” she said.
The updated ordinance came about after several residents complained to town officials about roosters crowing at all hours and causing a neighborhood nuisance.
There have been several workshops since then on ways to make Derry’s animal laws clearer. Many rules also fall under the state statutes for controlling livestock and fowl. Derry’s ordinance could put more specifics into certain areas of the law.
Defining a “nuisance” is a big part of the updated rules, Bishop said.
That word could mean noise, anything bothering a neighbor, manure stored incorrectly, odors or anything offensive, she said.
Many animal owners do follow the rules. Many others just don’t know what’s allowed when it comes to keeping animals.
“Some people just don’t understand,” Bishop said. “Ignorance has been the problem.”
Bishop will often talk to residents about potential animal problems and situations are resolved relatively simply. But at other times, an animal owner pushes the limits as far as they can.
“I’ve got lists of streets where ducks run at large,” she said. “The issues I’ve been seeing are not just roosters crowing.”
Some updates may includes putting restrictions on what animals can be kept on certain size properties. Some officials want to make it illegal to keep roosters on any lot under 3 acres and to somehow keep the birds quiet between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
Other towns require specific property sizes for certain animals. Londonderry requires 2 acres for livestock.
Bishop said it’s just a good idea to put more specifics into Derry’s rules to help her patrol problem areas better.
“This gives me something to go say, ‘You can’t do this,’” she said. “Nine times out of 10, most people are compliant.”
Derry already has rules on the books to handle dog situations, Bishop said. The updated rules would cover fowl and livestock issues.
Planning Board vice chairman John O’Connor said he did not want any restrictions put on roosters.
Other areas are already in line with the state rules, he said.
“Some of these changes are extremely restrictive,” he said. “It still seems like we have a lot of work to do.”
Planning Board member Randy Chase agreed that the 3-acre restriction was too harsh.
“A rooster could walk up to a neighbor’s bedroom window and crow while living on 10 acres,” he said.
Planning Director George Sioras said it’s more of a nuisance issue than what the size of the property is.
“We already have postage stamp-sized lots downtown that have animals,” he said.
Any changes made to Derry’s animal law would go to town counsel for review, Sioras said.
“That balances it out to make sure we’re in line with the state statutes,” he said.
More workshops will be held to deal with the livestock ordinance issue.
Bishop said she is happy with what she is hearing.
“I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “I think in all fairness to animals and animal owners, this is not going to restrict people too much.”