First it was backyard chickens. Are backyard goats next?

Posted by on Jun 19, 2013

Saanich girl goes for the goat
Saanich News – June 13, 2013

Residents in suburban Saanich can raise chickens on their property, and in one case, even cattle. A nine-year-old girl is petitioning the municipality to add goats to the list of allowable residential farm animals.

Jillian McCue says there are a slew of benefits to owning a goat – something she hopes to be able to do at her Gordon Head home in the near future, if she can garner support from Saanich.

“One of the reasons is they eat grass, so the air- and sound-polluting lawn mowers wouldn’t have to be used as frequently.

“Also goats aren’t too noisy if you give them enough attention, and their manure is a great garden fertilizer, and it isn’t too smelly,” she said. “Also they give milk.”

The Grade 4 student at Hillcrest elementary has collected 132 signatures from neighbours supporting her initiative, and mailed it, along with an information package, to municipal hall last week.

“I’m very impressed with what she’s doing. She’s quite passionate about this, and she’s done a great job” said Rich McCue, her dad.

Currently Saanich’s animals bylaw, as it relates to goats on residential properties, allows for a maximum of two goats on a parcel of land with an area of at least 1.6 acres.

Coun. Dean Murdock, who helped champion a bylaw change to allow backyard chickens in Saanich, commended McCue for her endeavour.

“We know there is a move toward local food production and people growing their own veggies and raising their own chickens. That’s a concept that Saanich supports, and we want to advocate for solutions and initiatives that encourage food security and promote local food production,” Murdock said.

“I think chickens was a good step forward. Goats takes that to the next level.”

Even before council makes a decision, if backyard goats are something it or a committee wanted to consider, staff would explore the concept and would need to get input from Saanich residents.

“We want to try and minimize the disruption to neighbourhoods so people can continue to enjoy their property, but at the same time we don’t want to unnecessarily constrain people’s ability to grow food and raise livestock,” Murdock said.

“It would be a balance, and we’d have to make sure we did a full process, much like we did with chickens, to explore the possibilities and implications.”

Saanich pound inspector Susan Ryan says it’s probably best if goats and residential neighbourhoods don’t mix.

“They cause problems, as far as smells and noises. We get complaints from people about smells even on agricultural properties,” she said. “And (goats) can usually lead to an increase in rats, flies, birds – depending on how the animals are fed.”

McCue points to Seattle as a city that successfully passed a goat bylaw, and a city whose lead Saanich should follow, she says.

Don Jordan, executive director of the Seattle Animal Pound, says he’s not aware of a single complaint that’s been lodged in that city relating to smelly or noisy goats. Seattle’s backyard goat bylaw passed in 2007 and allows for pygmy, dwarf and miniature goats. The animals must be licensed, neutered and dehorned to be kept.

“I think we’ve got less than a dozen (goats) licensed in all of Seattle,” Jordan said. “City council’s had a desire to renew urban farming. … This was another effort to have more sustainable living.”

Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver signed McCue’s goat petition during the election campaign last month, and says he’s impressed by what she is doing.

“She made a very compelling case (for me to sign it). I thought, ‘This is a kid who’s taken democracy into her own hands. She’s amazing,’” Weaver said. “She was articulate, she was passionate, she had done her research, and it was a very well-written, sensible petition. I want to support a child like this.”

While he supports the idea, Weaver joked that even if the bylaw was changed, he’s too busy to own a goat.

McCue says she’s looking forward to getting a response from Saanich, and hopefully seeing the issue come up on a council agenda in the near future.

“I’m trying to get goats to live in Saanich. They’re about the same size as dogs, and, like dogs, if you treat them well and take care of them, they won’t be (problematic),” McCue said. “And they’re cute and cuddly, as well.”