BUFFALO—The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court had determined that “holy cows” can’t be harbored in the village of Angelica in western New York.
A Hare Krishna couple had appealed the village’s zoning action against them which prohibited them from harboring their sacred cows on their property.
The appeals court concluded that the lower court had properly determined that Linda and Stephen Voith had been in continual violation of the village ordinance by harboring cows, a goat and other farm animals on their property and had properly enjoined them from engaging in further violations of the ordinance. The court ruled that “contrary to the contention of defendants, neither their leasing of the 12-acre noncontiguous parcel nor their regard of their animals as their companions or pets brings them into compliance with the ordinance”.
Arguing constitutional grounds and freedom of religion, the Voiths and their attorney said that the lower court judge was bigoted against their religion. The couple’s attorney, W. Ross Scott, says he was not allowed to call witnesses or raise the issue of religion in his arguments.
In 2003, Angelica zoning officials cited the Voiths for harboring cows without a permit, citing zoning regulations which prohibit the keeping of farm animals within village limits.
However, the Voiths, members of the Krishna Consciousness branch of Hinduism, maintained that the six cows were not farm animals but part of their family and are integral to the practice of their religion which worships cows.
The Voiths were issued nearly 100 violations based on complaints of neighbors about noise. The couple resides on a 2 1/2 acre plot on the Main Street in the village which is 80 miles south of Buffalo and some of their neighbors have their own livestock. Voith said he had applied for a permit from the village but was denied because he didn’t get the signatures he needed from his neighbors.
Village Justice Carol Trivisondoli fined the couple $457 but said the fine would be waived if the cows were removed.
Village officials claim that there farm animals cannot be harbored without a permit unless the order has at least 10 acres of land for grazing. Although the Voiths parcel is only 2 1/2 acres, they had leased an additional 12 acres adjacent to their property.
The couple has been boarding the cows in various locations and family members spend about three hours a day tending to the animals.
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