Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Issue is, What is Chicken?

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

Now that I can print out the New York Times crossword puzzle from the online edition, I don't often venture into town, up here in northern Michigan, for a newspaper.  So I kind of lose track of the great events of the 4c2dceff2db6d.image world for a couple months, which probably isn't such a bad thing.  Alene (that's my beautiful spouse) likes to pick up the Petoskey News-Review on Friday, because it has a listing of the entertainments available in the finer and not-so-finer establishments of Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

My son, Matthew, just pointed out to me yesterday's lead story, prominently above the fold in the left-hand column:  Beaker: Pet rooster to get a new home in Petoskey.  (That's Beaker, pictured left.)  You may wonder why I've chosen to highlight Beaker in the Legal Profession Blog, and it's certainly not to mock the newsworthiness of articles in the local paper.  No, this is the kind of real world legal issue that law professors too seldom focus upon.   The Emmet County 90th District Court found Beaker's owners in violation of having a farm animal on a residential property smaller than the county requirements, and they appealed this to the 57th Circuit Court.  (That's the court of general jurisdiction in Michigan.)  In a case worthy of H.L.A. Hart's vehicles in the park, or the famous question in Frigalament, Inc. to which the title of this post refers, the owners contended that Beaker was a pet, not a farm animal, and should be exempt from the county ordinance requiring a property size of at least two acres to operate a farm. 

What makes this story heart-wrenching is that Beaker has a hooked foot and has been nearly blind since having an accident as a chick.  But the owners decided not to appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals, and have found Beaker a new home at the Second Chance Ranch and Rescue.  The vet who facilitated resettlement reported, "Beaker seemed to be unfazed by the new surroundings, scratching at feed and 'acting like a chicken.'"

I find myself completely unable to find an appropriate concluding bon mot for this post.

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