With the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur only a few weeks away, there's been some renewed discussion about Kaporos, a controversial Ultra-Orthodox ritual in which participants wave a live chicken three times over their heads before slaughtering it. Animal rights activists have long since argued that the ritual is a cruel practice, staging protests, filing lawsuits, and even rescuing chickens. One Brooklyn couple has even been raising a spared Kaporos chicken in their apartment—and they're doing their best to paper-train the bird so they don't have to keep changing her diaper.

The couple in question are Vanessa and Steve Dawson, who currently live in Bensonhurst with their two cats and the aforementioned chicken, Penelope. Vanessa Dawson nabbed Penelope from a crate in Borough Park last October, where she and dozens of other chickens were awaiting slaughter. The Dawsons then nursed Penelope back to health and made her part of her family; filmmaker Duncan Skiles, who met Vanessa through animal rights activist group Collectively Free, made a short film documenting Penelope's rescue story:


The whole thing reads a little like a certain episode of Bojack Horseman. The Dawsons procure Penelope a special chicken diaper, for instance, and Steve makes her a therapy swing so she can watch TV with him while rehabbing from a contagious poultry disease. But it's worth noting that Penelope's not the only chicken who managed to transition from Food to Friend—in 2013, a Kaporos poultry supplier reportedly snuck a crate of chickens to animal activists, who then brought the flock to Woodstock Sanctuary upstate.

Earlier this summer, activist group Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos filed a lawsuit against the city, along with several rabbis and Hasidic congregations, in hopes of putting a stop to the ritual, which they claim violates health and animal cruelty laws. Supporters of Kaporos, meanwhile, say the lawsuit is "an attack on...religious freedom.”

A decision is expected to be announced on September 10th.