By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
The controversial flock of ducks of South Woodland Drive will get to stay in Fair Haven, the council decided Monday night.
After a heaping of media coverage and a tense meeting full of complaints by neighbors last month, the decision came down in a much more subdued fashion, with no public input except for one woman advocating to let the family keep the ducks in their backyard.
“So, at this point, it looks like the ducks are here,” Mayor Mike Halfacre said, “with conditions.”
After a brief discussion, the council decided to allow 12-year-old Nikki Vuille to keep her six pet ducks in her South Woodland backyard.
The approval comes with about a half-dozen conditions Vuille and her mother, Dawn Stover, must meet to keep the ducks.
Reacting to concerns from neighbors over sanitary and environmental conditions, the family must keep the ducks in a backyard enclosure which must be approved by the planning board and bring the ducks’ food in every night to avoid attracting rats. The family must also clean the ducks’ enclosure every day. There must also be proper screening to keep the enclosure from being an eyesore to neighbors, the council said.
And, no adding to the duck family.
“My duck experts tell me they’re not as hearty as you think, and it may not be six much longer,” Halfacre told Vuille, indicating not all six ducks will survive in domesticated conditions. “And if one goes, you don’t get a replacement duck.”
The council was allowed under the borough’s non-domestic animal ordinance to make a ruling on whether the ducks, which Vuille has raised since they hatched in August, were allowed as pets. This case, Halfacre said, does not open the door for more people to come to the council asking to allow them to have ducks through a “duck waiver.”
“I’m treating this as anomaly,” he said. “When the ducks are gone, the ducks are gone.”
After Stover and Vuille came to the council requesting permission to keep the ducks, the local story caught the eye of larger media outlets, with the Star-Ledger doing two pieces on the controversy and My9 News interviewing Vuille for a small feature. And on Monday night, Vuille, who wore sunglasses to the meeting, stood before a News 12 camera for an interview with a reporter to talk about the controversy.
The council will seek input from neighbors on any conditions it may have missed, and will codify its decision via a resolution within the next month. That will ostensibly put the issue to rest, which is just fine for Vuille.
“I’m very, very happy with their decision because I’d do anything to keep the ducks,” she said. “They’re our family, not just pets.”