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In North Haven, Blight Complaint Turns Into Media Uproar Over A Bunny [VIDEO]

What began as a neighbor’s blight complaint has escalated into a frenzy over a child’s pet rabbit.

The Lidsky family was busily preparing for a camping trip on Thursday evening but they were constantly being distracted.

The television in the living room of their of 53 Susan Lane home was paused to the WTNH six o’clock news broadcast about 7-year-old Kayden Lidsky’s pet rabbit; the town of North Haven recently sent her father Josh Lidsky a cease-and-desist letter, stating that town zoning regulations prohibit owning rabbits on a property of the Lidskys’ size.

Josh Lidsky’s cell phone rang at least twice in an hour, calls from sympathetic residents with offers to house the rabbit if they are forced to give it up. His wife Laura Lidsky said at least a dozen similar calls had come in already. An online petition has garnered almost 2,000 signatures in support of the bunny.

The rabbit in question is a 3-year-old Flemish Giant named Sandy. Although the Lidskys have owned rabbits before, they never researched North Haven’s zoning policies on rabbit ownership.

“We’d never think to do that,” said Laura Lidsky. “I’ve had rabbits all my life.”

Earlier on Thursday, First Selectman Michael Freda fielded calls and visits from reporters after this story broke on WTNH. He contends the rabbit issue stemmed from complaints from neighbors about the visible rabbit cage. The town deemed the structure a blight and issued a citation.

“We’re not trying to take the rabbit away from the child,” Freda said. “Residents were disgusted.”

Freda said that the Lidskys can request a variance to legally override the regulation through the Zoning Board of Appeals. Town zoning regulation 8.4.1.3 states: “No livestock, rabbits … may be kept on any lot of less than two (2) acres.” The Lidskys’ property is a little over half an acre.

What do you think about this situation? Should the bunny be allowed to stay? Tell us in the comments.

Other complaints against Josh Lidsky include alleged unpaid permit fees and owed back taxes.

Trouble began in March with a complaint about an unfinished overhang on the south side of the house. Josh Lidsky said he intends to finish the construction project, which would create an indoor patio that does not increase the footprint of the house.

“We are totally in agreement with the town,” said Laura Lidsky about the blighted overhang. “But they’re trying to make us do it their way,” which she said would cost the Lidskys more money overall.

Josh Lidsky also said financial difficulties prevent him from remedying the problem, which he wanted to avoid saying at public hearings.

“I just didn’t want that aired,” he said.

The rabbit cage became a issue when building inspectors, looking into the overhang complaint, noticed the cage and considered it blight, too.

“There was no formal complaint about the bunny cage,” Josh Lidsky said. “We never expected a letter about our bunny.”

Josh Lidsky disputes the town’s documented interactions with the Lidskys and the property inspection, pointing out what he sees as inconsistencies and contradictions. Throughout 2011, the Lidskys received more than 20 visits from the police and building and zoning officials, but no fines or follow-ups were issued.

“I consider this harassment,” said Josh Lidsky.

According to Josh Lidsky, Freda’s office denied him a conversation with the first selectman.

Cindy Vanacore, the Lidskys’ neighbor, lodged the original blight complaint. Vanacore declined to comment on why she filed the complaint. She added that the neighbors were once good friends, but something personal came between them.

“I personally never see the rabbit on the lawn or anybody playing with the rabbit,” said Vanacore. “I don’t want to hurt the kid.”

Josh Lidsky can make his case at the next Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on Thursday, Aug. 16.

Laur Lidsky August 14, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Maybe I should take a pic of it for you
Laur Lidsky August 15, 2012 at 02:27 AM
You got quiet Melissa. Did you go back to the town and see the letter of complaint from Cindy?
Jason Thacker August 16, 2012 at 04:32 PM
I would just like to make one thing very clear: This has nothing to do with neighbor disputes, property disputes, back taxes or unfinished home projects. The matter up for discussion here - and the one to which the petition applies - is the desire of the town to remove a pet from a small child by applying a LIVESTOCK ORDINANCE to a PET rabbit. Notice how the family has had the rabbit for three years. I doubt it just hit 20lbs this year. Rabbits do, I believe, age as fast as cats or dogs, or near enough. And yet, the bunny's size is mysteriously a problem just now? I think not. If other disputes exist between the family and neighbors, or the town, fine. Apply the applicable laws and solve them. But the bunny has nothing to do with unfinished home improvements/repairs, back taxes or property disputes with neighbors. Leave the bunny and the children out of those disputes. And for crying out loud: Stop trying to apply outdated LIVESTOCK ordinances to a PET. The town is traumatizing a little girl, and should be both ashamed and criminally liable for their behavior.
Jason Thacker August 16, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Josh: Keep fighting the good fight. You're in the right here, sir. Back taxes, unfinished home improvements, property disputes - those things might exist. No one is perfect; projects don't always come in on time and times are hard for all of us. Like you I have made some mistakes in my life and I understand what it means to not be perfect. But none of those things has anything to do with your daughter's pet. Not. One. Single. Thing. The simple fact is this: The town knows the rabbit is NOT livestock. They know that. Someone is trying to apply a livestock ordinance to a pet in order to get back at you for something which has nothing to do with the pet. You really should cease and desist all posts on here and hire a lawyer. I am pretty sure the town would straighten up and fly right - as would your neighbor - if their every complaint, post and gripe were followed by the words "Please address this with my Attorney." And for the expensive lawyers out there: Perhaps this family cannot quite afford your billing rates. I am pretty certain, however, that handling this case for fees they could afford would go miles in terms of PR and good advertising. Consider it.
Bhavna Patel August 25, 2012 at 01:12 AM
The rabbit should be able to say, the government says its a free country but they put so many restrictions on how we live. So many people I'm associated with have pets. A rabbit is the same as a cat and dog its child's capanion. When we hear the word 'rabbit' normally people think of a child's companion but very little people think of a rabbit as livestock. The town needs to stop all this and stop ruining the breed of rabbits.

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