Family Fights To Keep Farm Animals

By: Anthony Sabella Email
By: Anthony Sabella Email

The battle between the Hudson family and Williamstown Township has been going on since November. A cease-and-desist letter from the township's attorneys, Wednesday, brought it to a new level.

"We had to come into compliance with the zoning ordinance, which essentially means we have to get rid of our animals, or they will file suit in court," said Jessica Hudson.

It started when the Hudson's bought their home, last August.

Jessica Hudson says she was given the 'OK' by the township to raise farm animals on the property to sell products and help manage the severe food allergies of her five children.

"They're allergic to dairy, so cow's milk, soy, corn...," said Hudson.

Three months later, Hudson found out the animals were in violation of a zoning ordinance. The township said no one at its office ever gave the 'OK' for the animals.

Last week, when the board voted to take the family to court, Hudson took the story to her farm's Facebook page and website.

"It just went crazy," she said. "People started picking it up and flooding every social media network."

The result was several letters and $15,000 in donations for legal defense. Hudson says, the law is on her side.

"As long as you're selling something on your farm, then you're protected by the Right to Farm Act," she said.

Township attorney Gary Bender told News 10, Friday, the family isn't protected because they moved into the R-1 zone, where animals like goats and pigs aren't allowed. Then, they built their farm. If they had built the farm and the land was re-zoned to R-1, the story would be different.

Now, the Hudson family has until Friday, March 29 to comply or Bender says, he will file suit immediately.

Hudson says she doesn't plan on giving up her animals.

"I guess, I have to take them to court for them to listen."

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  • by PaulaB Location: Midland,MI on Mar 28, 2013 at 10:44 AM
    The Michigan Right to Farm Act trumps all zoning, including residential ordinances. In order for her to fall under the MRFA, she HAS to sell products to be considered a farm and to fall under that umbrella. Read it for yourself: So long as she follows GAAMP ( Generally Accepted Agricultural Practices) which deal with hygiene and health etc, she is totally within her rights. I hope she is successful and that my city gets on board with the program. People want to grow their own food and food includes meat.
  • by Concerned Citizen Location: Williamston on Mar 27, 2013 at 08:03 AM
    To me this is a "So sorry, Charlie" case. From what I remember reading before, she claims she had a verbal go ahead to open her little farm, and any intelligent person knows it's always best and recommended to have something in writing. If she doesn't have that, and she's in violation of the zoning laws, then I guess she needs to move to where she can keep her animals. I find it a tad pompous that she feels that her family should be treated special just because of their special needs.
  • by Diane Location: MI on Mar 24, 2013 at 07:14 AM
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping these animals. You take them away and you take their family away. The children obviously love their animals. People keep dogs and cats, guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters, what's wrong with pigs, goats, cows and horses. God made all animals for our enjoyment and we need to treat all animals the same.
  • by Martha W Location: Michigan on Mar 24, 2013 at 04:35 AM
    Contact the Institute for Justice, They take on property rights issues. Property rights are under attack in this country. Good luck.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 23, 2013 at 10:24 PM
    LEAVE these people ALONE!!!!!
  • by Tom Location: Perry on Mar 23, 2013 at 10:04 PM
    This isn't in a subdivision. It's out of town on a main road. I would think as long as the animals don't present a nuisance or there are no health and safety concerns they should be allowed to keep them. Perhaps limiting the number of animals to a reasonable amount per the acreage.
  • by Lori Anne Location: Lansing on Mar 23, 2013 at 04:38 PM
    That fact that the township is arguing over that minute detail shows that they don't give a darn about the family and their health issues. I feel bad for this family and sent letters to the township board indicating that there is no common sense or compassion any more, not even in small-town govt. Williamston was built by "small" farmers, now they are trying to deny it based on the definitions of a few words. Pathetic.
  • by Andrea Location: Lansing on Mar 23, 2013 at 02:12 PM
    The Township and their attorney should be ashamed of themselves. At this point, the attorney is clearly giving them bad advice, and all I can figure is that the township is harassing these poor people only because they can.
  • by Tim Location: Williamston on Mar 23, 2013 at 02:06 PM
    So the animals are for her kids nutrition, but she is selling goods and animals too? Is her busness licensed? She knows of course the $15,000 is income and she must pay taxes. The right to farm act does not allow someone to raise animals in a residential area; she is sorely misguided and will lose. I support the township 100% and will gladly support the use of township funds to enforce the zoning ordinances. The ordiances are in place to keep people like the Hudson's from carrying on such nonsense. The Hudson's have no leg to stand on and no one at the township office would have ok'd what they are doing as the activity is clearly a violation.
  • by Jim P. Location: Washington State on Mar 23, 2013 at 11:52 AM
    Sounds like they are getting bad legal advice or none at all. There is no federal "right to farm" act that I can find but there is one in their state but it only applies to farms that were legally established and is intended to protect farms from encroaching development and zoning changes So if they started a farm in an area that was not then zoned for farming at the time they started, I think they are badly out of luck as the law seems intended to apply to legal farms that suddenly found themselves in an area undergoing urbanization not to protect someone who thinks zoning laws only happen to other people. I sympathize with them but the law is what it is, now what you wish it to be. I think their supporters are wasting their money. Note: I am not a lawyer.
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