Waynesboro pet owner: ‘Allow us to keep our family members’

leah cave hen
This is Nicki Minaj, and she loves a good blow out. Photo courtesy Leah Cave.

Leah Cave’s Waynesboro home – she has two dogs, three cats, eight chickens, two roosters, two house pigs – would make for a fun field trip for a K-3 class.

OK, I’m an old guy, and I want to visit, if only because from what I understand, she gives her hen bubble baths.

“And has me blow dry her feathers, and she raises up her wings,” Cave told Waynesboro City Council last week.

I’m still wrapping my head around the idea of the hen getting the spa treatment.

That’s love right there.

“I spent my weekend looking at real estate. I am fully prepared to sell my house and leave Waynesboro to protect my animals,” Cave told City Council members. “I moved here five years ago because I love Waynesboro, I love the small-town feel, I love the people, and I love how welcoming it is. I no longer feel like my family is welcome here.”

Waynesboro leaders have on the table a proposed ordinance that would limit the number of pets that city residents can own and house – the limits set at four dogs, five cats and 10 chickens, with roosters being banned.

The ordinance as written does not include a grandfather clause, but does include civil and criminal penalties for violators, including possible jail time for a third misdemeanor offense.

Which would render Cave and dozens of city residents like her outlaws, unless they get rid of family members or just up and move.

Waynesboro loses out on that deal if folks like the Caves – who aren’t giving up their family members – are forced to up and move.

“I have four children currently attending schools,” Cave said. “I have a freshman in high school. She’s a straight A student. She is on the honor society. She plays sports for the school. I have two children at Berkeley Glen who are also a B honor roll students. And I have a son who is starting preschool at First Baptist. My husband is involved with the little league. He’s on the board, he coaches. He’s involved with the YMCA, and I periodically feed the police department on the weekends.”

We lose this family, and others like them, for an ordinance that sets arbitrary limits on pets to solve a problem that city leaders have yet to define.

Seriously. The presentation to City Council last week from City Manager Mike Hamp didn’t provide any concrete data on the number of complaints related to pets, much less how many of those complaints were attributable to households with more than the number of pets that would be allowed in the proposed new law.

There was one number that sounded more anecdotal than anything precise referring to 15 complaints in the past two years related to chickens.

A complaint and a half every other month.

Sure, let’s go crazy with a new law.

“The current ordinance states nothing except regulations on how you can pen your animals outside. My animals are not outside. I have pictures that I can show you. They are inside. They are my son’s best friends. They sleep with him at night. I am a stay-at-home mom. My animals are never left alone,” Cave said.

“We spent great detail and money ensuring that our yard would be safe for them when they went outside to use the bathroom. I spent over $1,500 on a chicken coop and a pen so that it was not an eyesore. It is cleaned weekly. My animals are cooped up every night. My rooster is not let out in the mornings before the sun comes up, so you don’t get a 5:30 wake up call. I did not go out looking for roosters. When you get baby chicks, sometimes that’s what happens.

“My neighbors love them, my pigs and my chickens. Fresh eggs certainly help,” Cave said. “I’m asking that if you do pass these new ordinances, to please grandfather in the pets that we currently have. Allow us to keep our family members.”

Story by Chris Graham

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