Ducking the laws on fowl Bird: When the manager of a Howard County trailer park accused Rebecca Hulit of housing an illegal pet, she cried foul and went straight to the zoning authorities.

September 13, 1996|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Rebecca Hulit's menagerie mostly charmed children in her Howard County trailer park community -- until Kiss-Kiss, a diaper-wearing duck, joined the crew.

Adopted six months ago when it was only a duckling, Kiss-Kiss prefers to stay indoors with Hulit. It sleeps and showers with her. It even throws little tantrums if not properly tucked in at night.

During waking hours, Kiss-Kiss -- its bottom wrapped in diapers made of plastic, batting and cotton rags -- prances around the trailer in one of eight outfits that Hulit has made, including two velour ones for dressing up and six not-so-dressy housecoats. It eats dog food and Hulit's food, particularly tuna subs.

All this was a bit much for the managers of the Aladdin Village mobile home community in Elkridge, who last month sent Hulit a letter advising her of some neighbors' complaints about the duck. The management claimed that, according to county zoning regulations, she can't keep the animal in her home.

Hulit, 49, a former executive secretary for a Washington law firm, would have none of that. She shares her two-bedroom trailer with her husband, Joseph; Kiss-Kiss; three Chihuahuas; two turtles; a mouse; and two other birds -- not including the three birds tattooed on her left forearm and right shin.

So she got the wheels of bureaucracy -- the county's Planning and Zoning Department -- rolling to protect the white-feathered waterfowl from eviction.

A week after Hulit asked the agency to clarify its zoning regulations -- a week of official research and deliberation -- it declared Kiss-Kiss a house pet instead of livestock or fowl, both of which are normally illegal to keep in a residence the size of Hulit's 60-foot trailer.

"Under the circumstances in which the duck lives, we determined it to be a pet. Period," says Stephen Bockmiller, a county planner.

Faced with that written "zoning interpretation" from the county, Hulit says, the trailer park no longer has a case against Kiss-Kiss.

But even though the county ruling now is almost a month old, the trailer park's acting manager, Scott Russell, says he doesn't know anything about it. This week, he was under the impression that Hulit had gotten rid of the duck.

"I'd rather not talk about it," he says.

But Hulit would.

None of her neighbors will tell her, but she figures it was Kiss-Kiss' intense quacking that provoked the complaint in the first place. "I didn't know ducks got as loud as they do when they are excited," she says.

In interviews, some of Hulit's neighbors mention the squawking but say the duck's not a big deal after all.

"What problems are you going to have with a duck, as long as it's clean?" says Charles V. Ritter, who lives across the street.

Adds Rachel Walker, who often visits her parents' trailer near Hulit's: "It's no worse than having a dog or a cat. A pet is a pet."

And Hulit? She still beams when she relates how county bureaucrats came to her aid.

"They may have thought I was weird," she says, "but they sure didn't treat me like I was stupid."

Pub Date: 9/13/96

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