Wednesday, October 30, 2013
PATEROS Goats and other traditional farm animals remain outlawed in the city after months-long debate, forcing one family to find a new home for their two pygmy goats.
The goats’ owner, Forrest Harrison, accused the City Council of “kicking the can down the road”
“I was definitely shocked,” he said of the unanimous decision made at the Oct. 21 council meeting. “There was really nothing that I could say or do at that point that was going to sway someone’s decision about it.”
For now, the Harrisons – including wife Libby, who is running as a write-in candidate for mayor – will send their goats to a friend’s home “until we can get things figured out,” Forrest Harrison said.
“We’re tired of fighting it at the moment. We’ve tried and tried,” he said.
The animal ordinance amendment clarifies the definitions of wild animals, household pets, farm animals and fowl. It also plainly states any animal outside the realm of a household pet – identified as a dog, cat, bird, rodent (including rabbits), fish or turtle – is not permitted to live within city limits.
The ordinance went into effect Saturday. Mayor Gail Howe said there was no public comment before the council voted.
“I was glad that it went smoothly,” she said.
“I was really pleased with that, that all of us on the council were united on the final draft proposal,” Councilman Adam Fritz said, noting that it took five meetings of debate and public comment to finally settle the issue.
“I was surprised by the passion people had on both sides, especially about the goats. I’d never seen anything like that before,” Fritz said. “I think the code is now, I consider it to be up to date and I don’t see any animal issues coming up again in the near future.”
However, Forrest Harrison said the family is weighing its legal options.
“They more or less put us in a position where they’re saying, ‘Come and sue us about it,’” he said. “It looks like we have a valid case, but it’s more just the money involved in it.”
The council gave the Harrison family, which has been fighting to keep its two 6-month-old pygmy goats since bringing them home in late May, until Nov. 5 to get rid of them. The city could start issuing fines after that date if the family is still in violation.
The Harrisons had planned to help their 4-year-old daughter, Avery, raise the goats for 4-H and FFA when she is old enough. They have argued that the goats, each about 21 inches tall, are more like pets than livestock and are less disruptive than the dogs running loose throughout town.
Libby Harrison said she called City Hall to ask about goats when her family moved in about four years ago, and at the time was told by a city employee that they could have goats as long as they weren’t being raised for slaughter.
But not long after the family brought the goats home and set them up in a pen, a letter came from the city notifying them that the goats violated city code and had to go.
The Harrisons set about trying to get the law changed, but some council members were firm in their stance to uphold the ordinance.
After a contentious meeting last month, Fritz said residents who want to propose an ordinance change should approach the city first, not after a violation has taken place.
“The issue that ended up swaying a couple of the other council members… for reasons beyond the goat thing, they’re not able to control the other animals,” Forrest Harrison said.
He said he’d like to see the issue eventually go to a public vote.