I TEAM: Crackdown on chickens in town filled with vacant homes and trash

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EAST CLEVELAND - The FOX 8 I TEAM has found a woman threatened with a criminal charge for keeping two live chickens in her backyard, even though she lives in a town plagued with abandoned homes, trash, potholes and serious crime.

And when we went to City Hall asking questions, the police chief shoved I TEAM reporter Ed Gallek and scrambled back into his office.

Virginia Russell lives in East Cleveland, and she keeps two chickens in a coop in a backyard. She considers the birds to be pets, and she showed us they produce eggs.

Russell says this week an East Cleveland Police officer came to her and said she has to get rid of the chickens by the end of the week or get cited with a criminal charge.

But Russell says she will not give up the birds. She said, "I have no intention of removing this chicken coop. I think it's an unreasonable request.”

At East Cleveland City Hall, the Law Director said a neighbor complained. Virginia Russell was warned last year. And simply, it’s against the law in East Cleveland to keep chickens. Law Director Willa Hemmons said, "The health hazard of keeping chickens, you know, in close proximity to where people live and reside."

Still in a town that struggles to provide even basic police and fire protection, we wondered why would the city focus on something like this? Hemmons responded, "Well, I don't think there's a focus" with just one case.

Meantime, the police chief shoved a copy of the city ordinance at us. Then, as we tried to question him about this, he said he wasn’t taking about this. He then shoved I TEAM reporter Ed Gallek at the door leading to the chief’s office.

After we had left East Cleveland, the neighbor who had filed the complaint called to say she was concerned about the smell and noise of the chickens and more.

If police issue a citation, Russell could face punishment up to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine although she would not likely get a sentence nearly that severe.

Russell and the Law Director both told us there are also some talks underway that could lead to changing the law against keeping live chickens in East Cleveland.

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