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Planning Director confirms: rabbits aren’t poultry in Alexandria

Alexandria’s Planning Director Karl Moritz confirmed that city ordinance doesn’t recognize rabbits as poultry.

In the wake of the Alexandria Times expose about rabbits sold at the butchery, commentators quickly argued that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers rabbits as poultry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website isn’t clear-cut and says domesticated poultry is defined as chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas, ratites and squab. The website does say the USDA provides a national grading service based on the classes, standards and grades for poultry.

Regardless, Moritz said the same doesn’t apply to city zoning.

“Alexandria follows the plain meaning of ‘poultry’ as it is not defined differently in our ordinance,” Moritz said in an email to ALXnow. “One common plain definition calls ‘poultry’ ‘domestic fowl, such as chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.'”

Moritz says the city ordinance does specify fowl as pertaining to birds.

“Our ordinance does specifically define “fowl” in Section 5-7-2: “The word “fowl,” as used in this section, shall include but is not limited to, chickens, hens, roosters, ducks, geese, pigeons, or any domesticated barnyard bird,'” Moritz said.

Moreover, Moritz said the Virginia Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration distinguish between poultry and rabbits.

“The Virginia Department of Health has indicated that it follows the Food and Drug Administration code, which makes a clear distinction between poultry and rabbits,” Moritz said. “Rabbits are considered a ‘game animal.’ Specifically, ‘Game animal’ includes mammals such as reindeer, elk, deer, antelope, water buffalo, bison, rabbit, squirrel, opossum, raccoon, nutria, or muskrat, and nonaquatic reptiles such as land snakes.”

A video showed rabbits being caged alongside birds at DC Poultry Market. An advertisement posted on DC Poultry Market’s Facebook page included rabbits on the menu and the butchery confirmed to someone asking in the comments that rabbits would be available soon at the meat market.

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