Goats in Minneapolis?

Goats aren’t welcome in Minneapolis.

That was the clear message from city council members at an April zoning and planning meeting. Members voted 4-2 to remove a few lines about “hoofed animals” in the city’s 61-page urban agriculture policy plan. Here’s what they deleted:

“Study the impacts of allowing hoofed animals. CPED (Community Planning and Economic Development) would be a partner in this work to ensure a coordinated approach with the regulation of enclosures for animals. Any study of allowing hoofed animals should involve a variety of stakeholders including those with expertise in animal welfare.”

City planners stressed that they weren’t saying that the city should allow goats. They just wanted to study the matter. Council members Cam Gordon and Kevin Reich tried to convince the rest of the committee, but to no avail.

tuthill photo.jpg “I do not want hoofed animals next door to me,” said Council member Meg Tuthill. “I’m fine with bees, and I’m fine with chickens, but I spent enough time on farms as a kid picking cucumbers for pickle factories, cleaning barns, slopping the pigs, the whole shooting match. I’ve chosen not to have that lifestyle. And for those of you that are unfamiliar with that lifestyle, when the wind blows the right way, it can be very fragrant in our homes.”

As it turns out, it’s not hard to find urban areas that have “chosen to have that lifestyle.” Just look across the river.

St. Paul doesn’t mind if you own a goat. In fact, the city also allows horses, pigs, deer, and alligators. There’s even a macaque monkey in residence, although the state has since made it illegal to own, as the animal control folks put it, “non-human primates”. (The monkey was grandfathered in.)

<img alt="Macaque monkey" src="http://blogs.mprnews.org/cities/files/legacy/content_images/AP%20monkey%20photo%20resized.jpg" width=200 align="right" hspace="10" “I haven’t seen any aardvarks or zebras yet, and I hope I don’t, but I think I’ve seen every other animal from A to Z,” said Bill Stephenson, St. Paul’s Animal Control supervisor.

The city requires that most animal owners get a permit. (If you’re more traditional and prefer cats or dogs, you can go paperwork-free.) Animal control officers inspect the home and yard to make sure the animal will be well-contained and healthy.

Stephenson helped out with a horse permit inspection a few years ago. “I went in a little bit prejudiced saying, ‘Now that’s a city lot. How are they going to keep a horse, let alone two?'”

When he arrived, he found a corral and a two-stable barn. “It was ideal. There are probably farms that aren’t this good,” he said. “I said, ‘How can we not approve this?'”

St. Paul has been home to a few goats over the years, Stephenson said. Right now, there’s just one.

Stephenson helped me understand the basics of goat inspection. “We’ll take a visual, see if the goat looks healthy, is standing upright, and not head-butting me,” he said. “And then we’ll look at where it stays and where it’s allowed to roam.”

goat babies.jpg

He sometimes wonders whether it makes sense to own certain animals. “Are you going to pet an alligator?” he said. But he said there haven’t been many problems with any of the city’s more exotic residents.

Back in Minneapolis, Dan Niziolek tried to make sense of the goat divide. He’s a program manager for Minneapolis Animal Care and Control.

“It just a different sentiment,” he said. “I think it speaks to the view and perception of each city.”

Over the years, Minneapolis has made a few changes. The city now allows chickens and honeybees. Last year, the city had 173 active small animal permits, up from 46 permits in 2007. The permits cover chickens, ducks, or pigeons, but Niziolek said almost all of them are for chickens. (Six people have been approved to own honeybees, if you’re wondering.)

And banning animals doesn’t mean people don’t own them, Niziolek said. It just means that Animal Control has to remove them.

“We’ve had all kinds of lizards, snapping turtles, snakes of all types, a very nice-looking alligator, sheep, goats, potbellied pigs,” he said. “It’s amazing what we’ll come across.”

What do you think? Should Minneapolis allow goats?

Check the blog tomorrow for Urban Animals: Part Two. We’ll talk to the founder of a group called the Goat Justice League.

(Goat photos courtesy of the Goat Justice League. Photo of a macaque monkey awaiting adoption in Thailand courtesy of the Associated Press)