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)

  • CJ

    Goats don’t have to stink any more than any other animal, if they are well-cared for. Obviously, the close proximity of city neighbors requires a care regime quite different from that of barnyard animals.

    That anti-goat council member’s opinions are colored by a past that has nothing to do with urban animal husbandry. I wish the goat advocates had tried to convince the Mpls city council to take a tour of animal facilities in Mpls/St. Paul so they could see what humane, tidy facilities are provided for city critters. Fees or licenses for having livestock can offset the city’s costs for inspectors.

    Clearly, a person jumping through all those hoops is not going to lose the benefits of having their own livestock by creating a problem between them and their neighbors from smells or flies. And if they do, the animals are confiscated.

    Well-cared for goats are clean, happy creatures that provide milk, meat and compost for owners interested in self-sufficient food production. A city that sets up the proper ordinances has nothing to fear from the growing desire of urban dwellers to raise their own food. Get with it, people.

  • I so would raise a few pigmy goats or very small sheep if my husband was game, but farther out where there is more access to grazing land. In the city I guess it’s fine if one had the right set up. We are urban farming here as it is with people offering CSA shares from within the city limits so I’m fine with it. I mean with the whole “going green” movement what’s better for local gardens then having fresh poo for composting and fresh meat available truly local? We can’t just talk about it Minneapolis, we have to be about it. You already have rogue pet owners that do everyone a disservice in the city by not registering their pets who are hazards or nuisances. The people who register their pets/livestock are not the ones to worry about. It’s the down low citizens who don’t like to pay to play.

  • doug

    I’m support bees in the city and I thought I was OK with chickens until my neighbor built a coop adjacent my back yard. Now I’m often confronted with the smell of chicken poop wafting out of my neighbor’s chicken favela. Call me stupid, but I was surprised by this.

    I think chickens can co-exist with city-dwellers, but their owners should have a really big lot and plenty of spare time to clean up after their livestock. Want goats? Move to the country.

    I grew up on a farm. If I wanted to live with hoofed animals, I wouldn’t have moved to Minneapolis.

  • As writer doug wrote about the smell of chicken crap from his neighbor’s coop area, I would like to bring up how awful children-next-door can be and how they are often more annoying than a small flock of chickens or a small tribe goats.

    In some locales, like Minneapolis or Duluth, you need a permit to have chickens. In Duluth, you can up to five hens (no roosters allowed); your coop needs to be a certain size, and a few other parameters need to be met.

    Want a child? Want five children? No permit required. You need not get your neighbors’ permissions to have a child let alone five. You are even allowed to have a male child (if you want chickens, and are in Duluth, it is not allowed).

    It comes down to responsibility of the owner/parent and the neighbors. I think Hillary Clinton said something about a village. If you do not like your neighbor’s smelly coop – (1) your neighbor is doing something wrong – it should have a minimal smell; (2) say something to them. Offer to help clean it. You’ll probably get free eggs out of the deal, too.

    Our neighbor has five children (no permits for any of them, I think); the children would routinely leave bikes, skateboards and dolls in our yard. Talking with the parents and hitting a few barbie dolls in tall grass with the lawn mower solved the problem.

    I would say that if you do not like your neighbor’s children, or chickens or goats, and are unable to even talk with them – you are the one who should move far, far away.

  • Kate

    There are plenty of bad smells in the city (um, hello, industry?). In the city, we all have to live with things we don’t like (like people that don’t pick up after their dogs). And goats have been shown to be effective — and non-toxic — weed killers. As long as the regulations are fully vetted and animal control has enough funding, I say it’s a good idea. I doubt there would be a high volume anyway given what I imagine are the complexities of keeping goats.

  • Ken

    From the story: “the state has since made it illegal to own non-human primates”

    I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to own human primates in MN as well.

  • Roughly 25 years ago or so, when the Minneapolis Community Development Agency (MCDA – now CPED) was, along with the Minneapolis Park Board and others, redeveloping Nicollet Island into the great living area it is now with all its historic rehabilitated houses, they had to relocate one resident of a house who had a goat living on the second floor, a residual tenant, I believe, from the ’60’s!

  • DNA

    Yes, we’d love to have a goat or two here in Prospect Park. One for milking would be nice.

  • aem

    YES! Minneapolis should have goats!

    As a city chicken owner, I often hear people who are fearful about the noise and smell of chickens. Often these people grew up on farms and remember that noise and smell. Well folks – 300 chickens is a lot different than 5 or 10 chickens! Alex is totally right. A chicken coop that is kept up properly should hardly smell at all. If it stinks that bad, talk to the owner and if it doesn’t improve call animal control.

    I think the fear about goats (smelly, loud, whatever) is the same thing. People who grew up on farms are expecting us to put 75 goats in the back yard. It’s time to get educated folks! I don’t think a backyard goat “coop” could hold more than a few goats for one. Two, smelly goats are males and we could simply not allow male goats in the city.

    I have visited several people with goats in cities (big cities!) and their set-ups were great, nothing smelly or noisy or bad.

    Alex had a great point about children. You think chickens (or goats!) are loud? Try living next to someone with screaming babies and kids. What about the neighbor with 5 dogs that bark at you every time you step outside? And the dogs poop all over your front yard, sidewalk, boulevard and the owner doesn’t pick anything up!? I really don’t see how that can be tolerated and people have a problem with chickens or goats.

    I believe that well-maintained “farm” animals can live well in the city with us and should. They are a great source of food, compost, entertainment, and education. Get with the program Minneapolis!

  • kate brown

    I find the dogs in my neighborhood make such a mess of pooping everywhere with the owner’s not cleaning up anything! Now that’s stinky, I have owned goats and they are the least smelly of animals, there poop doesn’t have much smell at all, like bunny poops. The neighing might bother people, but no more than a dogs bark…..I’m all for allowing goats!

  • Jon Carpenter

    Yeah when the wind blows the right way in my neighborhood all I smell is cigarette smoke.

    I would much rather have three goats living next to me then three lonely dogs that get left alone all day and whine, bark and fight making all sorts of noise. That ruling is ridiculous when there are permits and regulations involved with making sure they are taken care of correctly.

    Goats would be great grass mowers too and cost so much less.