We all know about the stray dogs that walk this city's streets (some of us a little too well). And we've all seen the litters of feral cats living at fast food joints, abandoned homes and other nooks and crannies around town.
But this e-mail complaint caught my eye: rogue chickens.
That's right, according to tipster Andrea Clark.
She's lived at her rented home on Carol Way in South Merced for 10 months and has repeatedly dealt with an unruly flock of homeless chickens. The five or so cluckers stalk her property and "poop on my porch," Clark complained.
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Clark said the birds also peck at the necks of her two pet cats and annoy a collection of four stray cats that she sometimes feeds. (She feeds the cats to keep them from dying, but wouldn't mind if they were rounded up by animal control as well, Clark said.)
But when she called our local animal herders, she got a worrying response: "The woman who came out to my residence yelled to me from her truck if I knew who the chickens belonged to. I told her I did not. She then said that I would have to chase down the chickens and put them in a box, then call them back and they will pick them up."
Clark said no one in the neighborhood claims the chickens, and she doesn't know whom they originally belonged to.
The city has laws outlining the maximum number of pets residents can keep. Mercedians can own five dogs and five cats that are four months or older. Residents can also keep up to two feathered friends -- either ducks, birds or chickens -- and they must be for "pet use only," according to the city's Web site.
I decided something had to be done to save Carol Way from further chicken chaos.
After several failed attempts to contact animal control myself, I called Mike Conway, the city's spokesman.
Conway confirmed that just one person works in animal control, down from the three workers who used to keep the department humming along. The sole officer who works for the city now handles all calls from the public, along with licensing dogs and completing follow-up paperwork.
Conway said the department fell victim to the city's downsizing in the past two years. In animal control, one position was frozen after a retirement and the other missing employee is on an extended leave.
Since 76 city workers have been laid off in the past two years, Conway said it was unlikely that replacements would be brought into Animal Control.
I couldn't contact anyone in Animal Control or the police department to confirm Clark's account of the meeting with the animal control officer.
Our tipster remains concerned.
"I'd hate to think if I were elderly or in a wheelchair," she said. "Would they tell me to round up the chickens then?"
What's wrong: Rogue chickens have control of a South Merced neighborhood, and Animal Control can't help.
Who's responsible: Mass layoffs at the city that have left the department depleted, despite Merced's feral animal problem.
What's being done: Remains unclear.
Tip off the tip list!
If you see something broken or in need of repair in your neighborhood, call the Sun-Star Tip List reporter, Danielle E. Gaines, with your tips at (209) 385-2477 or e-mail her at email@example.com.