Culver City officials will have to determine the difference between hens and roosters to resolve a dispute between two neighbors.
Karen Avines, who lives at 4115 Albright Ave., says that not only do neighbors on both sides of her house own chickens--in violation of city law--but that one also owns a pair of roosters that often crow at sunrise.
"I'm very, very irritated, to say the least," said Avines, who has complained to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and to city officials.
But Rose-Marie Gamboa, who is seeking a city permit for her pets, insists that her four fowl are hens. She said that the only sound the birds occasionally make is a cluck when laying an egg.
Gamboa's claim was supported by an SPCA officer named John Henn, who inspected her backyard cage last month and told the city clerk's office that the scratching poultry are, in fact, hens.
Avines, however, said she was raised on a farm and knows a rooster when she sees and hears one. She said she and her roommate, Kelly Done, sometimes are awakened by crowing about 5:45 a.m. "You'd think that the SPCA would send out someone who would know what roosters are," she said. "Chickens don't crow."
Gamboa and neighbors James and Kay Pettite, who own several chickens, applied to the City Council for permits after Avines and two other neighbors complained to the city. The Pettites' request will be heard by the council Monday, and Gamboa's is scheduled for Sept. 22.
Avines said she has a Polaroid photo of the Gamboas' pets and a tape recording of crowing that she intends to offer as evidence when the council takes up Gamboa's permit request. She also plans to urge the council not to grant the Pettites a permit.
Avines said that not only are the birds loud, but also their feed attracts rodents. She said she has photos of several rats she killed in her yard since she first noticed Gamboa's chickens. Her case against the birds, Avines said, "is to show not only that there are roosters, but that (the neighbors) are breaking the law, disturbing the peace and driving me nuts."
Even if the Gamboas' fowl don't turn out to be roosters, she said, "they must be damn noisy chickens. I don't want them there. I don't live on a farm, I live in the city."
Gamboa said she has seen no rodents in her yard since she gave the chickens to her two young sons in June. Besides, she said, Avines herself recently gave up a pet snake, a Burmese boa constrictor, after Gamboa and another neighbor complained to the city.
Avines said she did not have a permit for the snake and decided to give it away rather than pay city fees and go through the permit process.
Under city law, residents can own dogs, cats, parrots and other household pets without a permit. Outdoor pets, such as chickens, are allowed only with a city permit. If neighbors object, pet owners must receive permission from the council to keep their pets.
City Clerk Pauline C. Dolce said the Gamboas and Pettites are like others in the city who own such pets without permits.
"I don't think they are intentionally breaking the law, they just don't know they need a permit to own chickens," Dolce said.
Dolce said Gamboa and Pettite paid the city a $50 non-refundable fee to apply for the permit and turned in petitions signed by about 50 neighbors who do not object to them keeping the birds. A Los Angeles County health inspector said the cages met city standards for cleanliness, Dolce said.
In recent years, the council has denied permits to the owner of three Chinese chickens and to an applicant who wanted to keep four dogs, one over the city's legal limit.
Dolce said that the council will use SPCA and county reports and comments from neighbors to help it decide on the permits.
Avines said she regrets that the dispute has caused hostility between her and her neighbors.
"I've been friendly with my neighbors. I've lived here for 14 years," she said. "Now I have a reputation as the block crow."