Delaware City Council on March 26 delayed action on banning barnyard animals within city limits until the city staff can prepare several amendments to the proposed legislation.

Delaware City Council on March 26 delayed action on banning barnyard animals within city limits until the city staff can prepare several amendments to the proposed legislation.

Council expressed concerns that a ban would adversely affect members of 4-H and similar agricultural societies by imposing a $25 permit fee and coop requirements that could run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

"The whole thing throughout this process," said Mayor Gary Milner, "was that we didn't want to impact the 4-H'ers. That was the whole thing. But it sounds like this would have a huge effect on the rabbit people, especially."

As it is written now, the revised ordinance would limit 4-H participants to no more than five animals - chickens, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and birds - at any one time, another impediment questioned during the public hearing.

"A lot of these are breeding projects and five animals simply isn't enough for the kids to complete their project," said Laryssa Hook, 4-H educator for Ohio State University Extension.

Mary Jo Cherup said she has five children in 4-H and they currently keep 27 rabbits in hutches in the back of her yard. Two of Cherup's neighbors complained about the hutches, including Terri Ross.

"Just recently, they were using snow shovels to dump the rabbit feces over the back of the chain link fence. That's adjacent to our property. I can't build a patio in my backyard. I can't even use my backyard," Ross said.

Cherup said she was unaware of a problem.

"The hutches are back by a shade tree and you can't even see them once the tree gets its leaves. I would be happy to build a privacy fence but no one has ever approached us about it. We raise healthy rabbits. We've raised grand champions."

The revised ordinance would require a $25 temporary use permit valid for a maximum of seven months.

"Being allowed to keep only five animals for seven months greatly inhibits the learning experience," Hook said.

After the meeting, Hook had another question.

"Why did rabbits and small animals enter the discussion at all?" she asked. "As I understand it, the allowances were for chickens, that are by Ohio Revised Code and (Ohio Department of Agriculture) designated legally as livestock. Rabbits are not legally designated as livestock animals. In 4-H, we refer to them as small animals or companion animals, which include cats and dogs."

The proposed changes have unsettled the children participating in 4-H, according to Linn Hough, adviser for the Wild Wabbit Waisers Club in Delaware.

"I've had numerous phone calls from kids who were crying their eyes out wondering what it would mean and could they still keep their rabbits," he said. "There's been a lot of talk about nuisances and property values, but I'd rather have my property value decrease than to take away something this important from a child."

Resident Traci Cromwell chastised council.

"I have to be honest. You guys created this. You had an ordinance that worked for 15 years. You've already said 'no' to chickens. Why not go back to the original ordinance? Surely you have more important things to deal with than chickens and rabbits."

City council and the planning commission have discussed the controversial chicken issue in more than half a dozen meetings since last fall. Councilman Joe DiGenova said he'll be happy when chickens are in the rearview mirror.

"We've become the laughingstock of the state with all the time we've spent discussing urban chickens," he said. "We have a serious drug and alcohol problem in the city. We have a problem with teen pregnancy. We do have better things to do with our time."