Rooster ruffles feathers, Beckwith owner seeks change to township's disability definition

·3 min read

A rooster named Bruiser has ruffled a few feathers in the Township of Beckwith.

Neighbours lodged a noise complaint, the township served the owner noncompliance orders, but the rooster’s owner insisted that it is, at its core, a cause about changing the township’s definition of disability.

An emotional support animal, Bruiser is owned by Scott Boyle, who lives in a new subdivision in Ashton, with backyards backing on to farmland. Boyle acknowledged that there is a noise issue.

“Obviously there’s an issue with my neighbours with the rooster, because it’s loud, it’ll cock-a-doodle-doo every once in a while. I get that,” he said.

However, Bruiser is the one animal that a member of his household has bonded with. “We’ve had two dogs, fish, hamsters, but this is the one that this individual has connected with. (It is) one of the mechanisms of support that this individual relies upon on a day-to-day basis for dealing with issues, with their disability,” Boyle explained.

Living on a farm himself, Beckwith Reeve Richard Kidd said, “I think it’s therapeutic to go out (and see) cattle, sheep. It’s great to be back in nature. But in a subdivision, you can’t have that."

Currently the township’s bylaw (2018-09) prohibits roosters in residential areas. The bylaw also excludes animals as emotional support and states only that a “disabled person shall mean a person who is blind, deaf, or has any degree of permanent physical disability, which requires the physical reliance of a wheelchair, crutches, braces, canes or other remedial appliances or devices.”

The Ontario Disability Act defines a disability as “any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device … a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability.”

Boyle’s goal is to change the definition of disability in the township’s bylaw, to include “physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal.”

“The rooster is not the issue. I’m not fighting for the rooster to go into the grocery store. They should be taking mental health seriously and recommend they change the definition of disability,” Boyle said.

Kidd also talked about the Disability Act. “The main thing is that when the act came out, there’s different degrees of the act depending on the population," he said. "We’re small enough we don’t have a committee.”

Boyle said he first took up the cause for a policy around emotional support animals in May 2019 after moving to Beckwith.

“There was absolutely zero path forward, I kept calling, getting stonewalled, always being told that ‘we’ll get back to you.’ The only thing that showed up at my door was two noncompliance orders,” Boyle explained.

Beckwith council met on Tuesday, Nov. 3 and came to an agreement that “we’re willing to entertain a special bylaw to exempt him, if he provides us with a medical opinion proving that it is needed for mental health within his household,” Kidd said.

He also added that the exemption will last “for the life of the rooster.”

“It’s not only for my family, it’s for the populace of the township, for the township to recognize and validate mental illness among other things, under the definition of disability,” Boyle said.

Yona Harvey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Smiths Falls Record News