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A novel approach in a dispute over chickens

Former Roseburg City Councilor Ashley Hicks has taken a novel approach in her dispute with city officials as they seek to take away her pet chickens. Hicks got a note from her doctor stating that she suffers from emotional/mental health issues and by law is entitled to an emotional service animal — in this case, her chickens.

On March 18, Hicks filed a formal appeal with City Manager Nikki Messenger, appealing the decision of Police Chief Gary Klopfenstein to revoke Hicks’ livestock permit and force her to get rid of the four chickens.

“I have suffered a considerable amount of mental stress, severe anxiety and depression as a result of the ongoing fighting, untruths and misinformation with the revocation of my livestock permit and anguish caused by threats to revoke,” Hicks wrote in the appeal.

She attached a letter from Dr. John Davis Edmiston II, who supported Hicks’ claims of emotional stress and anxiety.

Edmiston wrote in his letter, dated March 15:

“I recently evaluated Ashley Ann Hicks’s mental health condition. I am familiar with her history and with the functional limitations imposed by her emotional/mental health issue…

Due to this emotional disability, Ms. Hicks has certain limitations related to social interactions, coping with stress, and anxiety. In order to help alleviate these difficulties, and to enhance her ability to function independently, I am recommending an emotional support animal that will assist Ms. Hicks in coping with her disability. Ms. Hicks assumes all responsibility for the training, safety, cleanliness, health and conduct of her animal at all times.”

That emotional support animal Edmiston refers to are the chickens.

Hicks said she has also enlisted the services of attorney Geordie Duckler, who heads The Animal Law Practice in Portland. According to its web site, the firm’s clients “are companion, domestic, commercial, farm, and exotic animal owners, and its main focus is on the resolution, litigation, and trial of animal-related disputes and harms in cases at both the state and federal levels.”

The site goes on to explain that Geordie is involved in several hundred cases a year on issues ranging from resolving minor animal control violations to significant product defect, human injury, and veterinary malpractice suits and injury cases.

“His practice is the only one of its kind on the West Coast and one of a small handful in the entire nation,” the site says.


Hicks lives in the 700 block of Southeast Flint Street, a few blocks west of downtown Roseburg. Her home backs up to the South Umpqua River.

Last June, Hicks got a permit for her chickens and ducks. She said she went door-to-door to get the 23 signatures of neighbors that was needed, and paid the $50 permit fee.

“I did it right. I played by the rules,” Hicks said.

However, Hicks said that in September a dog owned by her neighbor, Susie Osborn, attacked one of her hens. Later another dog owned by Osborn attacked and killed one of Hicks’ ducks.

All told, Hicks said Osborn’s dogs have killed two of her ducks and injured two of her laying chickens. Following one such attack in January, one of the dogs was impounded and Osborn was ticketed by animal control, Hicks said. Osborn reportedly appeared in court on the incident and paid a fine.

Hicks said it is those incidents that prompted Osborn to take action to have Hicks’ chickens removed. Hicks ticks off the reasons she believes the removal of her animals is unwarranted:

  • Osborn is the only neighbor to actually petition for the removal; another neighbor who signed a letter was an elderly woman who doesn’t live in the property and didn’t understand what she was signing. The woman’s tenants, who are also her relatives, were told to sign the letter, Hicks said. No one else has complained, she said.
  • Her chicken coop and pen are over 200 feet from Osborn’s shared property line and nearly 300 feet from her house. Hicks said she keeps the chicken coop clean and the animals don’t make much noise.
  • In addition to helping with her emotional well-being, the chickens provide free, healthy food. “I haven’t bought eggs in nearly a year,” Hicks said.

Osborn declined to discuss the matter in any detail. She did say that Hicks posted “horrible lies” about her on Facebook, and that she had refrained from responding to Hicks or her posts.

“The only thing I have to say is I asked her to keep her chickens in the coop and she refused,” she said.

Osborn herself served a total of 10 years on the city council, from January 1991 to December 1998, then again from January 2007 to December 2008.

Messenger said that under city code Klopfenstein is required to revoke the permit if he receives written objections from more than 50% percent of the abutting property owners, which Messenger said he did in this case.

Messenger said she is scheduled to hear Hicks’ appeal on April 6; she has 20 days from that hearing date to issue her final decision.

Messenger declined to comment on Hicks’ claim that she needs a chicken for an emotional support animal.

Klopfenstein could not be reached for comment.


Hicks has been something of a lightning rod at city hall for years. She took her seat on the Roseburg City Council in January 2017 and served one, four-year term. She was defeated in her bid for re-election by Patrice Spiros in November.

Hicks’ term on the city council was riddled with controversy, mostly in connection with her views and actions towards the area’s homeless population. Hicks would often lead cleanups of homeless camps, which some applauded but others saw as simply a way to displace homeless people.

Within months of taking her seat, a petition drive to have her removed from office was launched; it fizzled out.

In February 2020, Hicks was sanctioned by the City Council for comments she made on social media in support of a homeless camp near the airport. Later in the year Hicks filed a formal complaint against Messenger, accusing her of not living within city limits and therefore violating her contract and the city charter. The city council dismissed Hicks’ complaint, calling it unfounded.

Hicks said this latest action to remove her chickens is more “political harassment” from Messenger, the chief and the city council.

“The whole thing is embarrassing for our city. All this over some stupid chickens,” Hicks said. “It’s just more political harassment from my former colleagues. I just asked them to leave me alone and that’s it. These chickens are the only thing I get a little joy out of nowadays.”

Hicks also said part of the reason she hired Duckler, from The Animal Law Practice, is because she is considering filing a complaint in small claims court against Osborn for the harm to her ducks and chickens.

But first she is focusing on her fight to keep the four chickens she currently has. Hicks acknowledged that could be a tough hill to climb.

“I appealed to the city manager and then she decides, so my chances don’t look so good. It doesn’t seem like I’m going to get a fair chicken hearing,” Hicks said. “It’s so stupid when I say it out loud that it makes me mad. People are living in crisis, living on the streets, food banks are tapped, and the city is after me for my chickens. The whole thing is absurd.

“I just want the city to leave me alone.”

A simple goal turns into a life's mission

For Danny Quinn, it started with one simple goal: help clean up Gaddis Park.

Last spring, Quinn had been enjoying walks with his wife, Teresa, along the bike path adjacent to the South Umpqua River. But when they got to the part of the path along Gaddis Park, the scenery changed. There were large homeless camps and piles of trash — paper, discarded clothing, metal, styrofoam, various forms of used plastic, needles and human waste.

As the owner of a nursery in Glide, Quinn is used to making places look nice. He felt moved to bring that talent to Gaddis Park, and if by doing so he could somehow help the dozens of people living in the woods there, so much the better.

“When you see people sleeping in the bushes with nothing … I had to help,” Quinn said.

That initial desire to help clean up the park and its surroundings has in many ways become Quinn’s life’s work. He is at the park on most days, and not just picking up trash. He also hands out supplies like tents, sleeping bags, jackets and food to those living in the area and checks in on their well-being. He has become a trusted, welcome sight.

“There’s a lot of bad stuff down here, a lot of heartache,” Quinn said. “It broke my heart to see their faces. Nobody was smiling. In a small way, I’m trying to help people smile again.”

Quinn started slowly, picking up trash in November. He would leave paper gift bags filled with snacks as well as empty plastic garbage bags. He would write messages on the outside of the paper bags, like “Better days ahead!” and “Please help us clean up the river!”

Over time, those living in the area began to help, Quinn said. On his walks he would find the garbage bags he left filled with trash, waiting to be collected. Soon Quinn started talking to the people helping out, learning their names and getting to know them.

In January, Quinn organized a bigger cleanup with a group of friends and helpers. Before the cleanup he spread the word among the homeless people in the area so they wouldn’t be surprised. In the past, some “cleanups” really consisted of people coming in and just throwing away all the belongings of those living in the camps. Quinn wanted this to be different, wanted there to be mutual respect.

He even coined a term for it: Compassionate Cleanup.

“When we showed up they welcomed us, and told us they were grateful for the help,” he said. “There is garbage there that has been piling up for years — it is basically a homeless landfill that has been growing and growing. The unhoused residents there now have their own piles, for sure, but they did not create all of what is there, and they seem to be overwhelmed.”

‘MINI LANDFILLS’As winter set in, Quinn decided to do even more to help. He had an old tent he wasn’t using and handed that out. He bought a propane stove and gave it away. His family gave him some money for the cause and he bought some tents and jackets and distributed those.

Things began to snowball. Roseburg City Councilor Brian Prawitz saw some Facebook posts by Quinn's wife, Teresa, and contacted Quinn. Soon Prawitz directed people who had expressed an interest in helping to Quinn, and they donated money. Quinn bought propane heaters, and more tents.

The United Way donated items for Quinn to distribute, as did the United Community Action Network.

Quinn has also been working with city officials, with mixed results. He talks with Prawitz often, including one time the two of them walked around Gaddis Park in the pouring rain, as Quinn pointed out what he calls “mini landfills.” Prawitz has been responsive when Quinn asks him for certain items, like having a trash can put in.

“Brian has been wonderful,” Quinn said.

But he was less effusive about an employee in the parks and recreation department, who threw a fit when Quinn laid down some bark mulch in an area that he was trying to clean up. Quinn was told he had to fill out paperwork and sign a contract to become an official volunteer to do such work, which he has done. Quinn now has the keys to a gate he can open to bring his truck in to haul away trash, as well as a small plot of land near the entrance that he can landscape.

Quinn was at the park Saturday, hauling away trash and handing out oranges and other items of food. He stopped briefly to say hi to Earle, 30, who said he has lived along the river behind Gaddis Park for about seven months now.

Earl said he appreciates all of Quinn’s efforts, especially the cleanups, and often pitches in himself.

“I just like it when it’s clean and it looks nice,” said Earl, who asked that only his first name be used.

Douglas Holcomb is another person who likes to help Quinn out around the park, as he did Saturday. Holcomb said he lost his job because of the coronavirus and moved to Oregon where he is currently living in the Gaddis Park area. He walks around the Gaddis Park ball fields daily, picking up bottles, needles and other items he doesn’t want children playing there to be exposed to.

“I want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Holcomb said.

WORK AHEADQuinn said he knows there is still much work to be done to clean up the park, work that is unglamorous and often dangerous. In early January, a 48-year-old man was found dead in the South Umpqua River near Gaddis Park. A little over two weeks later the body of a 37-year-old woman was found in the river near the park.

Quinn said they very well may have died from overdoses.

“The amount of needles I find down here would blow your mind,” he said.

This past Monday the issue of the unhoused living in and around Gaddis Park came up at the monthly meeting of the city’s homeless commission. City Manager Nikki Messenger said Gaddis has a large contingent of homeless people living in tents and RVs around the park.

“The Little League season is getting ready to start and there are nine RVs that are parking there that we need to get moved, quite frankly,” Messenger said. “Parking is at a premium during Little League season.”

On Saturday there was only one RV in the parking lot, and one Roseburg Police Department vehicle there too. Quinn said several people living in the area told him the police had come through this week and made people go away.

Quinn said he worries about possible clashes with the homeless population in the area. He said he has heard of vigilantes who go through the area stealing belongings from the homeless people and even beating them up.

But he knows he can only do so much, can for now that entails continuing to clean the park up and help those living there.

“My intent was, and still is, to continue to clean up the catastrophic piles of garbage along the river, and to do so with kindness, compassion and respect for the people who are residing there,” he said.

News editor Mike Henneke contributed to this story.

Local Farm coolers keep seedlings cool and close

In between being pulled from the ground at upper Willamette Valley nurseries to being planted on the slopes of Southern Oregon’s Cascade Mountains and Coast Range, Douglas fir seedlings need cold storage.

Coolers at Norris Blueberry Farms and Wesley Orchards in the Garden Valley area provide that needed stop for the seedlings. Not long after those coolers are emptied of the respective farm’s summer and fall produce and products, they welcome the young trees beginning in December.

The coolers are kept at 34 to 38 degrees.

“It’s just more convenient to have the trees at a centralized location,” said Ben Christiansen, a forester for Barnes & Associates, a company that manages 80,000 acres of southwestern Oregon timberland. “Then we don’t have to drive up to the nurseries every day. Those nurseries don’t have the storage space. Having these farms with their coolers is convenient for us.”

A couple times a week, seedlings are delivered in bulk by semi-truck and trailer to the coolers. During a normal planting season from December to April, the Norris coolers store 1.5 million young trees for five timber companies and Wesley Orchards store 1.5 million trees for five companies and a few smaller timber owners.

In the past, Kruse Farms stored seedlings in its cooler for a timber owner until that company built its own cooler. Evan Kruse said the farm’s cooler is available to storing seedlings.

“We want to provide a service, help these timber companies out and make it easier for them to get the trees every morning,” said Paul Norris, owner of Norris Blueberry Farms.

While providing a service, storing the seedlings is diversity for the farms, earning revenue and extending the use of its facilities beyond the summer and fall harvest seasons.

“This keeps our cold storage in operation, this utilizes our building space that we have during our off season,” said Howard Sand, owner of Wesley Orchards.

Charley Moyer, the Dillard District forester for Roseburg Forest Products, said that company plants 500,000 to a million seedlings a year. Most are Douglas fir, but incense cedar, grand fir and some other non-fir trees are also planted.

Moyer said the seedlings can be stored up to four weeks in the cooler without being damaged, but most of them are out and in the ground within three weeks.

“It’s a convenience thing for the planting crews to have the seedlings closer to where they are going to be planted,” Moyer said.

Between 5 and 6 each morning, five to six days a week, planting crews roll up to the coolers and load 8,000 to 10,000 seedlings into their trailers. They then head off to the mountains to the planting sites. With a crew of 10 to 15 planters, on terrain that is not too steep and with the right weather conditions, the daily goal is to plant all the seedlings taken each morning.

Sand said there have been years when up to 5 million trees went through the Wesley Orchards cooler. He said he expects the number to be up in future years as the thousands of acres of forest land that was burned by the multiple fires of 2020 are reforested.