A New Norwalk Road man is seeking permission from town health officials to keep four sheep on his property.
As required under Chapter 108-5 of the Town Code, such animals may only be housed within 300 feet of an occupied dwelling with written approval from the director of health.
Jack Hawkins purchased his home in New Canaan on .76 acres in December 2015, and lives there with his wife and their two young children, a 2-year-old daughter and 2-month-old son.
An advertising executive in Manhattan who serves as an infantry officer in the National Guard, Hawkins said he grew up on a 1,000-acre farm straddling Arkansas and Missouri, and that acquiring the small-size Finn sheep is part an effort to pass along life lessons he learned growing up there to his own children.
“I came from a very large farm, where I was fortunate enough to grow up with grandparents and uncles all together, it was really rewarding, the family bonds you create working with family, and it also teaches you a lot,” Hawkins told NewCanaanite.com.
“It’s a great experience, so I wanted as much as possible—this is nothing compared to what I had growing up—but to provide something to my own kids. Moving to New Canaan was largely driven by our kids and what we wanted to provide for them.”
Though the children are still too young now to tackle chores, they’ll have them later in life, Hawkins said, and he’d like those chores to include cleaning up after the sheep, feeding them, minding the animals’ health and nutrition and seeing to it that they’re shorn each year.
To this point—and this is to change in just a few days, Hawkins said—the sheep have been kept in a fenced-in corral out front of the family’s split-level ranch-style home (they soon will move to an area around back of the house).
About two weeks ago, a passerby phoned Animal Control saying that she spotted the sheep and was concerned about them possibly getting loose and causing problems on Route 123. As a result of the complaint, representatives from Animal Control, as well as Planning & Zoning and the Helth Department, traveled to Hawkins’ home to explain the need for a waiver from the health director. According to a report from Animal Control Officer Allyson Halm that NewCanaanite.com obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, she asked questions regarding the size of the shelter (it is to be enlarged so that all four sheep can lay down at the same time within it), plans for disposal of feces (fertilizer), vaccinations and exposure to sick wildlife (points taken under advisement and in review).
Asked about the matter, officials with the New Canaan Health Department said they currently are addressing the situation.
Hawkins said his experience with town officials enforcing the ordinances has been very positive.
“They are extremely friendly and open to working with me on this,” Hawkins said.
“They are doing their job and honestly they’re doing a great job, they’ve been very friendly and open and receptive—it’s a good relationship,” he added.
Though Hawkins said he has his own questions about some of the logic of the ordinance in play, “I do not hold them [town officials] to blame—they are just in the middle of it.”
“And to be honest, I don’t put too much blame on the [individual who filed the complaint initially]. I always say that in life you are always going to have somebody who complains about everything you do, however you do it, that is more how you handle the situation.”
Hawkins said he has been asked by health officials to secure letters of support from his immediate neighbors, and that he expects to get those in short order.
For Hawkins and his wife Angelina, a native New Yorker, moving to New Canaan represented “a kind of compromise” between their backgrounds, he said.
His wife named the sheep: Chelsea, Tribeca, Bronx and Brooklyn (previously called ‘SoHo’).