Pets or Poultry?

FULTON, NY – A Fulton city resident who was sentenced to weekend jail time and a fine after a trial in Fulton City Code Court in April was back in court last week to answer to a violation of the city‘s junkyard ordinance.

After the April 9 trial, William Rinn III, 40, who resides at 51 N. Fourth St., was sentenced to pay a $500 fine and serve two weekends in the Oswego County Correctional Facility for having excessive trash and debris on his property, according to chief court clerk Maureen Ball.

This past week, Rinn was credited in court for having cleaned much of his property since that time as he returned for the junkyard ordinance violation.

Much of the discussion during that appearance focused on the chickens that Rinn keeps in cages in his back yard, however. City attorney Mary Rain explained that the chickens could result in additional charges against Rinn.

“I don’t have a place to put them,” said Rinn, who was represented voluntarily in court by defense attorney Salvatore Lanza.Rinn property

Lanza debated that the animals are kept as pets by Rinn’s children. Rinn said that the city’s dog warden told him that if the chickens were kept as pets and not raised as food, there was nothing preventing him from having them in the city’s laws.

“They’re pets,” Rinn said.

Looking through the city’s ordinance, Rain detailed the rules that define pets. Among those rules, she said pets only include animals that would typically be kept inside a house.

“I don’t believe that includes chickens,” Rain said.

Lanza disputed that because of the rising costs of food, the city should not prosecute someone for keeping animals that can provide food.

“Eggs are expensive,” Lanza said.

City Court Judge Spencer Ludington pointed out that Rinn cannot use the defense that the animals are pets if he is using them to provide food.

Rain noted that all of the work Rinn has done at his property could “go to waste” if he opts to stay in violation of other property rules.

Rinn said that while he has the chickens and materials on his property, they are enclosed in a fenced-in back yard. He tried to show the court photographs that he took around the Sixth Ward of trash and debris in the yards of some of his neighbors.

“If you have neighbors who are not complying with the law, file a complaint,” Ludington said.

Based on the amount of cleaning Rinn has done since April, Ludington said it seems that the weekends in jail made an impression.

“It is fair to say that you have made significant progress,” Ludington noted, looking over updated photographs of Rinn‘s property. “You’ve obviously done a pretty good job cleaning it up.”

Ludington pointed out that if Rinn continues with those efforts and removes the chickens, it is possible that he could be in full compliance and done with code court proceedings.

Ludington said that he would consent to giving Rinn an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal for the violation of the junkyard ordinance if Rinn agrees to finish cleaning his property by June 4. If that is not complete, he said Rinn would face another trial June 11.

After court, Rain agreed that Rinn has done a great job cleaning his property since his last appearance.

“He did a tremendous job,” she said. “But he has a little more to do.”

As he left court, Rinn said he feels he is being unfairly targeted by the city.

“I think they are kind of harassing me,” he said. “They are complaining that my yard is such a mess but they are looking over the fence at my back yard through my neighbor’s window.

“They send me to court and they send me to jail because of something they see from my neighbor’s house,” Rinn added. “I think that is a violation of privacy. A privacy fence is called a privacy fence for a reason.”

Rinn said that much of the “debris” he has been cited for are building materials that he bought for another property. Rinn maintained, too, that the chickens are his children’s pets.

“I was buying another house but the seller backed out,” he said. “I bought all of that new stuff for that house. I wasn’t going to throw it away so I put it in my back yard.

“Now they are saying that my kids can’t have their pets,” Rinn said, noting that he has had chickens for half a decade. “It hasn’t bothered anyone for five years.”

Fulton Mayor Ronald Woodward said that Rinn’s home is in a residential zone. He pointed out that the city has focused a good deal of attention on the neighborhood in the past year, including the construction of two new homes on the same block that were put up with the use of grant funding that was secured by the Fulton Community Development Agency.

“That is an area we are already doing things in,” Woodward said. “We have also targeted the area for a $650,000 grant next year to do more things.

“Who will want to live in that neighborhood with roosters next door?” Woodward added. “That is a function of country living, not city living.”