Lowcountry family's pet chicken ruffles feathers

By Nikki

BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV)Forget about why the chicken crossed the road. One Lowcountry bird and its family have an even bigger problemso big, it's ended up in court.

The problem started when Stephanie Stewart of Bluffton and her kids decided to take home a chicken from a friend who lived in Yemassee.

"She (my daughter) fell in love with her and my friend said, 'well, you can take her home.' And we're like 'ok,'" said Stewart.

The family's pet chicken goes by the name of "Smartie." Stewart's three-year-old daughter and feathery friend appear inseparablefrom watching television together to painting Smartie's talons lime green.

But not everyone in the Stewarts' Mill Creek subdivision approve of the family's choice of pet.

Recently, after someone filed a complaint, a Bluffton police officer cited Stewart for violating an ordinance that prohibits livestock within town limits.

"Livestock is too vague of a description because what is livestock?" questioned Stewart.

Stewart says she doesn't consider Smartie "livestock" but instead the family's new beloved pet which lives primarily indoors and can be found occasionally sporting a diaper.

On Tuesday, the case ended up in a Bluffton courtroom; however, the officer who issued the citation never appeared. According to the town's attorney, Mike Cerrati, the officer had since left the department for another job.

"So the judge basically threw the case out," stated Cerrati, who admitted this case ranks as one of the most unusual he's been involved in as an attorney.

Cerrati says despite the judge's action, the family's pet chicken may not be out of the woods just yet.

"The Stewarts' homeowners association is objecting to the pet," said Cerrati. "It's likely that there will be other complaints if there was one already."

While some neighbors in the Stewarts' subdivision want the bird gone, others like, Chanda Elzie, don't mind the bird one bit.

"It's not really a big deal. It's not like it's a hog or something," said Elzie.

Bluffton police aren't commenting on the case, stating that the issue is between the town and the family.

If at some point the family has to give up their beloved bird, Stephanie says she will likely give Smartie back to its original owner.