Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla wants the public to believe she is passionate about animal welfare and wildlife but she is using her seat to promote an ordinance to allow “backyard chickens” which is exactly the opposite of welfare for the animals this ordinance would affect. This ordinance will result in these birds becoming victims of neglect, abuse, and abandonment, used for eggs, slaughter, fighting, and ultimately discarded when the hobby no longer holds interest or the hens stop producing.
So why would County Commissioner Bonilla think that allowing uneducated city dwellers the ability to keep complex animals such as chickens in an urban setting, ultimately burdening the local animal shelters with unwanted chickens is a good idea? Has Commissioner Bonilla even bothered to research the consequences of such an ordinance? Who is going to take on the tax burden of providing Orange County Animal shelters with the space and funds necessary to take in and care for these poor animals when they are dropped off at the shelter or abandoned and left to dodge traffic in the streets of Orlando and surrounding suburbs?
The novelty of backyard flocks has created an epidemic of abandoned, seized and surrendered birds to shelters and rescues by people that have no clue how hard and expensive it is to actually care for the animals properly. A chicken that costs roughly ten dollars to buy can costs upwards of ten times that amount to treat for an illness. In addition, the average chicken lays eggs for only about two years of what can be a ten to fourteen year lifespan. And predators are everywhere, even in the city, where a hungry racoon, possum, or dog, can make a quick and bloody meal of the inhabitants of a chicken coop, leaving injured and dying birds a painful and horrific death.
County Commissioner Bonilla by supporting this ordinance is also exposing the public to health risks that the Center for Disease Control has linked directly to “backyard chickens”. According to the CDC, the United States saw “the largest number of illnesses linked to contact with backyard poultry ever recorded” with over 1120 cases of Salmonella infections linked to backyard flocks in 48 states, including a large outbreak in Florida. The idea of further burdening our already overworked health care system during this pandemic with an outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to these backyard chickens is something that Commissioner Bonilla clearly isn’t thinking about.
Orange County citizens deserve more from their County Commissioners than this type of ordinance that doesn’t take into account the suffering of the animals and the risk to public health. Bonilla claims on her Facebook page alongside a picture of herself smiling holding a hen that “fresh eggs are very tasty” but are tasty eggs worth all the pain and suffering of the chickens, the burden of the animal shelter system, and the public health risks? Will Bonilla still be smiling when the streets of Orlando are filled with suffering chickens, the public is sick with a Salmonella outbreak, and the animal shelter is filled with chickens alongside the cats and dogs?