« What's New in Mules & More | Main | What an impressive sight! »

December 13, 2004

"Happy" the Donkey Needs Your Help

"Happy" the donkey is being sued by his neighbors for braying. Please help support Happy and the rest of the longears community in this court case.

Below is a letter from Crystal Ward of Ass-Pen Ranch in Placerville, California. She explains more about Happy's court case, and what you can do to help.

Kristie Jorgensen

“Happy” The Donkey, being sued for braying by his neighbors...

Well, I wish I had good news to report. The small claims court case was held today (12-10-04) in Roseville, CA. Happy’s owners, Darrell & Lisa Carpenter were there, along with the complaining neighbor Mark Gentry who was suing for $2100.

Unfortunately court started off with a substitute judge, a local attorney named Joe Marmon(sp?) was sitting in as acting small claims court judge.

Mark Gentry started off with saying the donkey arrived about a year ago, the donkey brayed at all hours of the night, preventing him from sleeping whenever Happy brayed. Mark stated that Happy brayed quite often 2 to 3 times per night. Each bray lasted up to 15 seconds. At least an hour of sleep was lost per night, which he attributed to loss of at least one hour of work the next day. Mark charges $100 per hour to do his work as an electrical contractor and general contractor, so he figures the brays should be worth at least $100 per night (or per bray). Further, he stated that sometimes he would wake up in the morning and was unable to do the work because he was tired, groggy and sometimes had to sleep in. He repeatedly said the donkey has been a nuisance due to his braying at all hours. Mark Gentry lives on 1/4 acre.

Happy’s owners gave an articulate summary in defense of Happy. They had him castrated when they first acquired him. After the neighbor started complaining, they had the vet out to check his hormone levels to see why he was still occasionally braying. They also tried (without success) a dog shock collar. They stated their property was zoned residential/agricultural and they could have legally up to 3 donkeys, and 9 sheep on the 1 1/2 acre parcel. Happy, besides being a great pet for the Carpenters and their son, was also purchased for the purpose of being a predator control animal, to guard the sheep. Lately, while trying to appease the neighbor, Happy has been locked up at night and is only being let out during the day. This leaves the sheep without any protection during the night hours when the chances of predators are the greatest.

Eventually I was asked to answer the question of “why a donkey brays in the first place”. Perhaps it was because he was answering a donkey up the street or across the canyon, or possibly it was because he was alerting his companions of a potential predator in the immediate area. But because Happy lived in the country with the proper zoning, Happy was simply being a donkey, just like any cow or horse or any farm animal would occasionally communicate.

As the Judge began to make his decision, it was apparent he was struggling. (Note: city boy attorney unfamiliar with living in the country). He commented that the donkey was indeed interrupting the neighbor’s sleep and was therefore was a nuisance. He also agreed that the zoning allowed for said animal. But he said to charge $100 per bray was a little too much, so he reasoned that $750 would be more appropriate. Tension filled the air and Lisa said that nothing would change, the donkey was legally allowed there, what would happen if the neighbor continues to sue over and over again in the future. I spoke up and said that this case could potentially affect livestock owners everywhere. It could affect farmers, dairies, ranchers, horse owners, 4-H’ers, FFA’ers, etc. Every person who happens to own a pet goat and lives in the country could be affected. This case could snowball with this ruling. This (local attorney) Judge, who was merely sitting in for an absent Superior Court Judge, could be setting a precedent by ruling against a pet farm animal who is clearly not violating any zoning requirements established by the county.

In the future, could any person who has a dispute with his/her neighbor (unrelated to the livestock), retaliate by suing in court claiming their goat is making too much noise, the chickens cackle every time they lay an egg, the rooster crows early in the morning, the horse whinnies at feeding time, the dairy cow moos at milking time, etc. Will the farmer be required to get rid of his farm animals because of the neighbor? Will the farmer be fined on a regular basis every time the neighbor takes him to court? When one lives in the country where farm animals are legally allowed, one can expect to hear noises associated with farm animals. These animals cannot be successfully trained to not communicate. When one visits the city, we can expect to hear cars honking, freeway noises including sirens day and night, children outside playing, airplanes, helicopters, lawn-mowers, leaf-blowers, etc.

By this time the Judge (who decided now not to rule immediately on this case), decides instead to take this case under submission. A decision will be announced at a later date. Several television and newspapers are watching this case closely.

Please, after you have read this article, we need your help! If you have a few minutes to spare, write a letter in support of farm animals in general, and donkeys specifically. Either email your letter to: asspen@cwnet.com or mail to: Crystal Ward, P.O. Box 246, Placerville, CA 95667

Letters should contain your own words, or consider the following letter as an example:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing about the potential ruling against donkeys (and potentially all farm animals) living in the country. For land that is currently zoned residential/agricultural and farm animals are legally allowed there, the noise associated with said farm animals should not be considered a nuisance. Farm animals cannot be trained to not communicate. All farm animals (assuming they are housed and fed properly) will make noises from time to time, just like any cow will occasionally moo, any pig will occasionally oink, and any donkey will occasionally bray. For any city person who does not like “country noises”, they should move back to the city.

Farm animals add so many benefits to living in the country, they provide food, companionship, responsibility to youth, social and educational benefits such as 4-H and FFA, predator control benefits to smaller livestock, etc. To deprive a family the interaction of having farm animals in a area where the zoning allows it, would be potentially inviting numerous lawsuits to every farmer, rancher, horse owner, and every back yard pet owner everywhere. In this day and age where latch key children grow up with minimal responsibilities and even less supervision, it has been proven that children growing up with pets and livestock assume more responsibilities, less gang affiliations, and become more productive adults.

Ruling against donkeys (and potentially all farm animals) in the country could potentially overwhelm the courts with lawsuits. Realtors who sell ranches and homes in the country have always advertised property as “horse ranches” or smaller parcels as ranchettes. What is a ranch if the neighbor doesn’t want the horses whinnying or the cattle mooing?

Please rule on behalf of farm animals, and Happy the donkey specifically. Happy is simply being a donkey, a well fed, well housed, member of the Carpenter family.

Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at December 13, 2004 05:36 PM


It would appear that Mark Gentry, the complaining neighbor, has never lived near a railroad crossing. What would he do then? Sue the railroad?

He also must not live anywhere near a busy highway. If not, perhaps he needs to get used to the sounds of country life. Just closing his window, or using earplugs might work too.

We live in the Salt Lake Valley here in Utah, and we hear trains in the night blowing their horns in the distance at every street they cross. Late one night a train had a horn that was stuck in the on position for 20 minutes. I am certain that most of the 1 million people in the Salt Lake Valley could hear it! Since the commuter rail uses the nearby tracks in the day time, freight trains use it from midnight to 4:00 am.

Posted by: Gilbert Jorgensen at December 14, 2004 10:39 PM

Hello folks nice blog youre running

Posted by: lolita at January 19, 2005 08:47 PM