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Duck deaths bring in animal rights lawyer

KENNETH CITY — The duck wars that have plagued this town for more than a year have reached a new level of intensity — the ducks have an attorney, lawsuit in hand, awaiting the results of a necropsy in Orlando.

Town officials got the news over the weekend in an e-mail sent by Tampa animal rights lawyer Jennifer Dietz.

"I am filing a complaint on behalf of the citizens of Kenneth City against the council, its members, and the (police) chief seeking an injunction from further harm to any animals in Kenneth City, in particular the ducks, and damages for animal cruelty that is either condoned, or protected, or shielded by the Police Department," Dietz wrote.

"It's time for the press, both TV and print, to see … what Kenneth City's 'council' and the police are doing to poor, innocent, helpless animals. And allegedly lying to the public about the cause of all of these deaths.''

Kenneth City Mayor Muriel Whitman declined to comment about the possibility of a lawsuit, but added, "I don't like her saying we lie about everything."

The duck deaths, Whitman said, "were very sad. I feel bad about it." Dietz sent the e-mail after duck lover Maureen Lyons hired an independent lab to necropsy one of the more than 30 Muscovies that have recently died.

Tests and more tests

The early results indicated that the ducks could have died from poisoning, parasites or a virus. Lyons authorized further tests to determine whether the ducks have been poisoned. The results of those tests could be back as early as today.

Kenneth City officials announced last week that the duck deaths were almost certainly the result of duck viral enteritis, also known as DVE or duck plague. They relied on the findings of necropsies of two of the ducks by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The commission has also sent samples for further testing. It is unclear when the results of those tests will be available.

Dietz said Monday she is waiting for the results of the independent testing before she files any lawsuits. "The toxicology report is going to be very important," she said.

Muscovy ducks became an issue in Kenneth City last year after Whitman opened her front door one morning to find a flock staring her in the face and looking for a free breakfast. Other town residents also complained about the destruction and mess left behind by ducks that were being

fed by neighbors.

The council moved to outlaw the feeding of ducks on private property. After months, and one false start, the council finally passed an ordinance that allowed feeding but provided for penalties should the feeding become a nuisance.

That appeared to settle the matter until last month when duck bodies began appearing. Duck lovers worried that poisoning was involved because there was a rumor that a town resident had put out poison near where the first bodies were found.

Town officials criticized

Town officials called in Fish and Wildlife, which issued an opinion that the ducks had been victims of DVE, which has symptoms similar to poisoning.

Lyons was not satisfied and took one of the bodies, known as Carcass No. 31, to an Orlando lab.

"The results were that it was a healthy female duck, no parasites, no lesions on the liver. It had a greenish yellowish liquid in the nostrils and in its stomach. 'DVE' was low on the list as a cause of death," Lyons wrote to town officials. The pathologist "did say nothing viral looked present."

Lyons then criticized town officials because they "misled people into believing there is a duck virus and the FWC wasn't even asked by you or the reporting officer to screen for poison!"

Lyons wants the town to "come out publicly denouncing poisoning or harming our ducks," she wrote. "It's not okay to be cruel to animals, and especially not to our trusting little ducks."

Town officials apparently ignored Lyons' e-mail. That's when she contacted Dietz.

In the meantime, Lyons has kept some of the remains of Carcass No. 31 in case further testing is needed.

Duck deaths bring in animal rights lawyer 04/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 10, 2008 7:35pm]
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