Local resident cries fowl

Crystal Baker just wants her chickens


November 30, 2023

There was a lot to unpack at the Town of Cathlamet’s meeting last week. It began with one resident venting her frustrations about the town’s response to her earlier request to add more chickens, geese, and ducks to the five chickens now allowed in city limits, thanks to an ordinance passed just last year.

Crystal Baker asked for the council’s justification, and wanted to know what they had against sustainable foods or children participating in 4-H.

She claimed that larger communities like Seattle, Tacoma, Battleground, and even Longview/Kelso allowed more poultry than Cathlamet.

“I moved to a rural community to live a simple life. We deserve to have poultry, not just a couple of chickens,” Baker said in a series of comments.

Town Councilmember Jeanne Hendrickson said she had spoken to people about ducks and geese since the subject came up at a prior meeting, and hadn’t gotten any positive feedback.

“I’m not against children, I’m not against 4-H,” she said. “We didn’t say no, we just said what we have is adequate for now.”

Town Council member Laurel Waller pointed out that it took five years to get the chickens okayed and Hendrickson reiterated that the council is seeking input and there would not be an immediate answer.

Two hours later, talk turned to the pet licensing rules on the town’s books, which Town Clerk Sarah Clark said was updated in 2020.

There were a few concerns, and some of it centered around how to enforce the regulations, which includes paying fees to license all dogs and cats, even indoor cats, in town.

“We don’t have a code violation officer,” Mayor David Olson said. “Cathlamet Municipal Code is enforced upon complaint, called to the attention of town staff or law enforcement as necessary.”

The town attorney, Fred Johnson, said he could issue notices of infractions and Olson said he believed that the council members could be deputized. There were questions about a pound master, but they went unanswered.

Town Council member Kermit Chamberlin suggested that they get rid of the licensing fees, though he liked the notion of a code for leashes and wondered, again, who would enforce it.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, Cowlitz Humane Society will get out of enforcement, the Town’s Attorney, Fred Johnson added as a matter of interest.

Hendrickson said she brought the matter up for review because she was concerned that money was being collected, but nothing was being done with it.

“It seems like we are penalizing our town residents,” she said. “If we are going to collect, we need a purpose for it.”

The matter remained unresolved and Waller suggested a workshop.

Later during another public comment, Baker spoke up again, this time with questions about enforcement.

“After listening to your guys’ conversation about cats and dogs and the licensing you guys implemented that obviously has no useful reason for being there,” she said, “and the fact that there is no way that you guys actually uphold anything that you pass with that, with a lot of the other things you guys have put into regulation, is there any enforcement for the majority of things you’ve imposed on the people?”

“The town does not have a code enforcement staff person,” Olson replied. “Typically my experience is that complaints are brought to the attention of town staff, or council member or the mayor. We’d have a law enforcement contract with the sheriff. Some of those are dispatched there. On occasion, the town or town staff can pursue it.”

Clark added that animals were regulated by zoning ordinances and violations could come with a minimum fine of $250.


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