Horse Owner Cited into City Court

November 26, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Municipal Judge Hilton Conger may decide soon whether horses, being kept on a small lot between Luttrell and Anthony Avenue must be removed, based on alleged violations of city property maintenance regulations.

The owner of the horses, Seth Billingsley has been cited into city court by the police department. Chief Richard Jennings says he surveyed the property last Friday, November 23rd and found probable cause to issue the citation.

Seth and his wife Janohn Billingsley reside at 857 Anthony Avenue.

The citation alleges that Seth Billingsley is in violation of a city ordinance in regard to:

"Health and Sanitation nuisances."

The ordinance states that "It shall be unlawful for any person to permit any premises owned, occupied, or controlled by him to become or remain in a filthy condition, or permit the use or occupation of same in such a manner as to create noxious or offensive smells and odors in connection therewith, or to allow the accumulation or creation of unwholesome and offensive matter or the breeding of flies, rodents, or other vermin on the premises to the menace of the public health or the annoyance of people residing within the vicinity.'

The ordinance also states that "No animal or fowl shall be kept in such a place or condition as to become a nuisance either because of noise, odor, contagious disease, or other reason."

Billingsley is to appear in city court on the citation Tuesday, December 4th at 9:00 a.m. Billingsley, who plans to contest the citation, has hired attorney Sarah Cripps to represent him. Cripps says she plans to ask for a one month delay to give her more time to prepare for the case.

On September 17th concerned citizen Walter Foster, a resident of Miller Road, came before the Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen complaining about two to four horses being kept on a small lot near his home on Luttrell Avenue. Foster said the animals were drawing flies to the area, causing a public nuisance. The lot is also located across the street from the home of Alderman Willie Thomas, and he too is opposed to the horses being there.

A petition was presented to the board bearing signatures of 68 people.

At that meeting, the city board voted to have Special Health Officer Designee Eugene O'Neil make a personal contact with the owners and follow up with a letter, giving them notice to remove the horses.

O'Neil, in his letter to Seth Billingsley dated September 19th, stated that " You are advised, due to many complaints received by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen to remove the horses creating unwholesome matter (manure) causing the breeding of flies and offensive smells and odors on the premises. Removal of the horses is to be accomplished within 30 days of receipt of this notice."

On September 26th, the Billingsley's responded with a letter to Mayor Taft Hendrixson stating that they were contesting the order to remove the horses by October 19th and requesting that the order be rescinded for the following reasons:

"Although Animal Control was called, they admitted to us via a phone conversation that the letter giving us 10 days to correct alleged violations was not initiated after any type of inspection/report, either before or after the ten days. Moreover it was said that it was done as a courtesy to the neighbor inciting the conflict who is an alderman."

"The DeKalb County Humane Society inspected our property and found absolutely no violations of any type. Further, the premises were found to be in exceptional condition."

"The building inspector, Mr. O'Neil, voiced his opinion when coming out to inspect the property stating that he found no violations. He also stated he came out as a courtesy to the alderman who is inciting the problem. (Note that the building permit was granted for a horse barn, over a year ago)."

"We respectfully contest Mr. O'Neil's credentials as a "Special Health officer Designee"

"The pastor of the Temple Baptist Church on Miller Road has written saying that he and the congregation have no objections to the horses being there. Furthermore, a large number of neighbors have said that they see nor smell a problem with the horses and would be willing to file their own petition."

"We also contest the petition signed at the city board meeting as it lacks validity as it: (a) had no heading to indicate to signers exactly what they were signing and (b) was signed by minors, residents outside the city limits, and residents not living within a relevant distance."

"Our property has never been in a filthy condition as outlined in the law, nor has it ever been allowed to accumulate manure or any other offensive material. As there is no evidence to show any violations of the city laws, the prejudiced complaints from neighbors cannot be construed as sufficient to effect punitive action on the part of the city. Complaints of this nature are for municipal court."

The letter goes on to state that "Mrs Billingsley is in the last trimester of pregnancy and her health practitioners have repeatedly warned her that the stresses of these allegations are seriously endangering the life of her baby."

Mrs. Billingsley has since given birth to the child. She now claims that the baby was born prematurely and that the infant is experiencing complications.

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