City targets camel lot

Sam Snell’s camel Clyde relaxes in the yard Tuesday on Remuda Street in Clovis. Snell would like to see camels removed from the list of animals the city commission will not allow people to own. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.

By Jack King

For much of the time he has owned him, Sam Snell has kept Clyde, a 5-year-old Arabian camel, in his yard at 313 Remuda St. Now the city of Clovis is threatening to interfere with his ability to do that by proposing an ordinance to control keeping exotic animals in the city.
The city Planning and Zoning Commission will consider recommending the ordinance to the City Commission at 3 p.m. today in Bert Cabiness City Government Center, 321 N. Connelly St.
Clyde is so tame that Snell has taken him to local elementary schools. Furthermore, his one-acre lot on Remuda Street is zoned to allow the keeping of livestock and many of his neighbors also keep horses, sheep and cattle in their back yards, he said.
The city doesn’t need an exotic animal ordinance, and even if it gets one, camels should be removed from the list of prohibited animals, Snell said.
“The camel is not an exotic animal. It’s a livestock animal, according to the New Mexico Livestock Association. And it’s not a wild animal. It’s been domesticated for hundreds of years. We have fences on either side of the yard that even a camel can’t look over and our neighbors don’t mind. They come from blocks around to feed and pet him,” Snell said.
Al Lewis, the owner of Al’s Pets at 522 W. 21st St., sells non-poisonous snakes — boa constrictors and pythons. He said he, too, thinks a city ordinance regulating the keeping of exotic animals smacks of Big Brother.
“I don’t think it should be the city’s responsibility to monitor individuals’ homes concerning whether or not they have a snake,” he said.
Besides, he added, pet snakes have caused very little trouble in Clovis.
“I don’t think they’ve had more than one call on boas or pythons in the last year,” he said.
Marcus Brice, head of the city’s Inspections Department, said he can only recall “one or two” complaints about snakes in the last year.
“And even then, it wasn’t about the snake, but about what the person was raising to feed the snake,” he said.
Louis Gordon, the city’s planning and zoning administrator, said he has received complaints about exotic animals in the city, and about Snell’s camel in particular.
“The property owner adjacent to Snell has complained that they would have difficulty selling that land because of the camel,” he said.
Chad Lydick, a Clovis engineer and developer, stopped him after a Planning and Zoning meeting and complained about the camel, he said.
Lydick said Tuesday he’d meant his comment to be more general than specific.
“I said, ‘As long as you guys are serious about doing this, make sure you’re covering some of the animals that are in the city at this time, like camels and llamas,’” he said.
“We are developing some property behind Sam Snell’s and I’d seen the camel. I didn’t really know camels were allowed to exist in somebody’s back yard,” he said.
Gordon said, in proposing the ordinance, the city is not trying to tell people what to do.
“Our only attempt is to regulate the exotic animals that people may have. But, of course, by living in the city you do accept some regulations and guidelines,” he said.