New Terry resident Tom Yeager holds one of his New Zealand breed rabbits in front of cages of rabbits located in a portion of his garage. As the owner of a rabbitry business that has just moved into Terry, Yeager has found himself in the center of a town controversy regarding animals and zoning that he neither sought after or wants. Yeager describes his passion for rabbits and the steps he took to ensure his hobby business would be welcome in Terry before moving here in this week’s issue of the Tribune.
By Kay Johnson
When Tom Yeager starts talking about rabbits, it becomes clear he knows his business. From describing various breeds of rabbits to explaining how to reproduce them resulting in the most desirable markings to caring for the furry little critters that fill his neatly lined and stacked cages in a portion of the 24 foot by 24 foot workspace in his garage — Yeager’s rabbitry business is more than just a trade, it’s a hobby he says he loves.
“You have to love rabbits to raise rabbits,” the 64-year old retired machinist explained. “I grew up raising rabbits as a kid,” Yeager said. “I like raising rabbits. I like eating rabbits and I like selling rabbits.”
Earlier this spring when Yeager began looking at the Terry property he now owns, which includes a small house and a 24 foot by 48 foot garage on the corner of Courtenay Avenue and Prairie Street, he had no idea he would be entering into a hornet’s nest of controversy. It’s something he now says he regrets and wants to steer clear of.
“I just want to be a positive aspect of this community,” the Plentywood area native said. “I think this is a good hobby business.”
Yeager recalls calling town hall before purchasing the Terry property to find out about the town’s regulations regarding animals. He says he was given the go ahead and that it was explained to him that the town was currently in the process of implementing zoning, but nothing had been adopted yet.
But after purchasing the property in May and visiting town hall shortly afterwards to inquire about any possible town bills on the property, Yeager says he was left with another impression.
“That’s when I met the mayor and he started getting on me about the rabbits,” Yeager recalled. Yeager remembers responding, “Now’s a good time to tell me,” referring to the fact that the property had already been purchased.
Yeager said he’s already had a visit from the sheriff’s office in his first week and a half in Terry, with a copy of the town’s animal ordinance in hand. The ordinance allows only 20 animals in one area within Terry’s town limits. He said a number of visitors have also stopped by inquiring about his business and giving him their perspective of the controversy surrounding Terry’s animal ordinance and zoning process, among other matters. Yeager also recalled reading about his business in the local paper covering town council meetings.
“I’m not hear to push buttons,” Yeager said. “If my neighbors don’t complain, than city hall shouldn’t complain.”
Keeping good relations with his neighbors is something Yeager said he has done in the past and strives to do in Terry as well.
“I’ve always talked to my neighbors,” Yeager said. “I don’t want to be a nuisance. If there’s a problem I want to correct it.”
He has talked to three of his neighbors already, with one couple welcoming him with a batch of baked goods and another couple telling him as long as his rabbits don’t smell and don’t bother them, they don’t have a problem with his business/hobby.
Keeping a tidy rabbitry operation is also something Yeager said he maintained in Plentywood and intends to do in Terry. Each rabbit and a few rabbit litters are contained in 24 inch by 30 inch metal cages with an automatic watering system connected to most cages. Cages are routinely cleaned of rabbit droppings and with a power washer as needed.
A rabbit takes a drink from the watering system connected
to its cage.
“A clean rabbit is a happy rabbit,” Yeager said.
An air conditioning unit has been installed where the rabbits are housed and will be heated during winter months to maintain the optimal 80 degree room temperature. Yeager also intends to install a ventilation system similar to the one he had in Plentywood.
Although he declined to give the exact number of rabbits he now has, Yeager said he is in the process of downsizing.
“I want to get back to where I’m keeping just breeding stock,” Yeager said. “I’m not breeding any rabbits until my numbers are down.”
Published July 10, 2013