DALLAS — The Dallas City Council officially approved the residency of George and Dawn, a pair of mallard ducks, within the city limits.
The city’s code prohibits citizens from keeping wild animals, including certain kinds of birds, as pets, said City Manager Greg Ellis. The code has a process to have animals exempted through a public hearing process and vote of the city council. The public hearing for the pair of ducks was held Monday during the council’s regular meeting.
Dawn and George’s owner, Michelle Smith, initiated the process when she discovered that ducks weren’t allowed under the code. Smith and her husband, Craig, also have chickens at their home at 375 SW Mill St. Dawn, the female duck, is Michelle’s therapy animal.
“She is a domestic mallard hen,” Michelle wrote in a letter to the council. “She lays eggs, which we eat. She also provides a lot of love as my therapy animal. … She is a house duck, leash-trained as well. Dawn has never bitten or harmed anyone. Our yard is fenced, and she cannot fly, so she can’t get out.”
George is a companion to Dawn. He is not a therapy animal.
Michelle included letters of support from her neighbors, a letter from her doctor identifying her as disabled by a condition that would be partially alleviated by a therapy animal, and vet examination records for both ducks.
Both were declared as healthy and free from infectious and contagious diseases by Dallas Animal Clinic.
One of the Smiths’ neighbors, Anita Sorensen, didn’t approve of the exemption, and said since they began keeping birds in their backyard, she had to deal with rats.
Sorensen lives at 359 SW Mill St.
“She has chickens and ducks, and I have been having a problem with rats. And it’s only on that side of my house. They are trying to get into my home. They are eating through my wire on the outside of my house,” Sorensen told the council during Monday’s public hearing. “This is my first time at a city council meeting. I just can’t live with rats. They are in my backyard. They are trying to get into my house, and it’s been since the birds. I’m sorry to say that. I know that she likes her birds, but I can’t live with rats.”
She added that she’s had trouble with other types of animals climbing her fence to get into the Smiths’ backyard.
“It’s a mess,” Sorensen said.
Craig Smith also spoke at the meeting, saying he’s dealt with rats before having chickens and ducks.
“They were there before. We’re trying not to feed them. We keep our backyard clean. We clean the pools pretty regular. They (ducks) are great animals,” Smith said. “I’m sorry about the Sorensens dealing with the rat problem. I have dealt with them on my side for seven years.”
Michelle Smith said she’s taken measures to cut down on rats and other animals trying to get into her chicken coop. She traded her coop for a shed that is harder for animals to get into, and locks up the birds’ food at night.
She said when she brought Dawn home three years ago, she didn’t know she was breaking a city code. She said she thought if chickens were OK, then so were ducks.
“My apologies that we are even here talking about this,” she said. “I just really love my ducks, and I think you can tell, otherwise I wouldn’t be here begging for them.”
City Attorney Lane Shetterly said if the exemption is approved, there is the danger of setting precedent for other requests to keep what the city code defines as wild animals. He added that the Smiths’ application included letters of support from neighbors who would be affected by the exemption, and that could be a standard the council applies to future requests. An exemption would not change the code to allow ducks without an application and hearing.
Councilor Jackie Lawson said it’s easy for her to distinguish between a wild animal and one that fits that definition but has been domesticated.
“I think it’s very obvious when a pet has attributes that distinguish them from ‘wild,’” she said. “I don’t see a problem with it.”
Lawson added that she understands the concern about rats, but didn’t believe the birds were the initial cause. She made a motion to approve the exemption, with the condition that the Smiths only have five total birds, the same limit the code has on the number of chickens allowed.
The motion was approved unanimously.
In other business, the council:
• Approved a request from Southwest Polk Rural Fire Protection District to end its administrative services contract on June 30. The contract has a one-year opt-out clause, and Southwest made the request in October 2018. However, the city council approved on a 7-2 vote to allow the early exit.