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Here Be Dragons?

The meaning of the word “agriculture” has long been fertile ground for litigation and, in the recent case of Fleming v. Town of Oxford Zoning Bd. of Appeals, has been applied to yet another uncommon pursuit. In deciding cross-motions for summary judgment, the Land Court considered whether the possession of as many as 400 bearded dragons—a reptile native to Australia with a mature size of about 16-20 inches in length—for breeding and sale qualifies as agriculture under the Town of Oxford Zoning Bylaw. The Court found that the animals were not customary household pets and further that:

[T]he ZBA was on solid legal footing in concluding that the keeping, breeding and sale of bearded dragons does not constitute “agriculture” as used in the ZBL. Bearded dragons are not tamed, not associated with family life, and not accustomed to living in or near the habitation of men. They do not fit comfortably within the definition of livestock as domestic animals, such as cattle or horses, raised for home use or for profit, especially on a farm.

While the association of bearded dragons with family life may be subject to varying opinions, the Land Court’s decision adopts existing precedent that agricultural pursuits involving animals are generally limited to the raising of domesticated animals, which the Court determined the reptiles are not.


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