A district judge has ruled that chickens cannot be seen "recognized household pets" according to Eldorado's governing covenants, dealing a big blow to pet chicken owners in the community.
The summary judgement issued by District Judge Mark Macaron on Friday requires the seven pet hen owners listed as defendants to immediately "remove their chickens from their respective properties."
The year-old case hinges on the definition of the following Eldorado Community Improvement Association covenant: "No animals, birds or poultry shall be kept or maintained on any lot, except recognized household pets." The seven Eldorado residents who were sued by the ECIA in December 2012 for keeping chickens in their backyards argue that the covenant is ambiguous and that a growing trend in owning pet chickens classifies them as a household pet.
Macaron, however, concludes differently, pointing out that the ECIA covenants haven't changed since 1995, apparently before pet chickens were a thing. More importantly, he writes, is that the community hasn't created a special ordinance to allow chickens since then.
"The practice of maintaining backyard poultry has become a significant phenomenon only since the mid-2000s," Macaron writes, "and, when permitted, has been accomplished by amendments to municipal or county zoning ordinances to allow poultry to be kept in areas where farm animals or agricultural uses are otherwise prohibited."
Marcon made the ruling after hearing from both sides but before a May 5 trial date set for the case.
The controversy, which began three years ago, has pitted Eldorado residents against each other in sometimes over-the-top manners. But the dispute, in many ways, can be boiled down to those who think the presence of pet chickens in the community lowers their property values versus those who contend that their chickens aren't causing anyone a nuisance.
In the fall of 2010, Eldorado residents rejected an amendment to the covenants to specifically define chickens as household pets. But the failed vote, proponents of pet chickens argue, still left the existing covenant ambiguous.
Macaron also opines that the chicken owners' interpretation of the covenant "would create an illogical result" and a gateway for other animals to be kept as pets "simply by stating that such is recognized by the household as their pet."
"This interpretation would open the door to an unlimited multitude of different kinds of creatures being kept inside and outside of homes at the community of Eldorado," he writes.
ECIA Board President Dag Ryan praised the ruling in a statement, saying that he hopes "we can now put this unfortunate conflict behind us." Yet a website run by one of the defendants hints at a strong possibility of a court appeal. Gershon Siegel, another defendant, says he and others will be meeting tomorrow with their lawyer Ron VanAmberg to discuss appeal options.
VanAmberg wouldn't comment to SFR on the ruling other than saying that an appeal is "certainly an option we'll be looking at."
Read the ruling below: