I TEAM: New turn in local battle over chickens getting national attention

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EAST CLEVELAND - The FOX 8 I TEAM has found a woman is giving up her two pet chickens temporarily to avoid getting hit with a criminal charge, but her battle against City Hall isn’t over.

Meantime, the I TEAM also has found what’s not getting done by the City while this homeowner finds herself in a fight over her chickens.

We revealed a week ago, in East Cleveland, Virginia Russell said police came to her and threatened a criminal charge if she didn’t get rid of her two pet chickens. East Cleveland has a law against keeping live chickens.

Russell says, since then, she also received two visits from the police chief. She added, "And I would think that he'd have more important things to do. And I wanted to avoid any sort of litigation. I packed them up (the birds) and took them to someone else's house to babysit with them."

Russell is now starting a push for a new law in East Cleveland to allow chickens. And, she’s also hoping to see support for a new state law just proposed that would also help her bring the birds home.

Last week, the police chief refused to answer questions from the I TEAM, angrily shoving a copy of the law at us.

This time, we went to East Cleveland Judge William Dawson. We asked how often he sees cases of citations involving animals such as chickens. Dawson said, "You know, in my six years on the bench, I can remember maybe just one case involving animals, and it was in regards to the fishing that takes place at Forest Hills Park. That's the only one.”

At every turn in East Cleveland you see piles of trash and rundown buildings. But the East Cleveland Court says every month. only a handful of building and housing code violations come through.

A neighbor had been complaining about Virginia’s chickens. So, Virginia is sending a message as she fights to change the law. She spray painted a sign and placed it on the chicken coop facing the neighbor’s house. It says “tool shed.”

Virginia told us, "So I decided to make her a sign to remind her that the chickens were gone and that this is now a tool shed."

People nationwide have responded to this story. Many have written e-mails and offered help.

We’ll be watching to see what happens with the pushes to change laws.