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Get your own goat! Duluth may license hoofed companions

Pygmy goats, owned by Kris Kapsner of Duluth, stand in a temporary enclosure at a festival. An ordinance before the Duluth City Council would allow hoofed mammals to be kept within the city limits. (Kapsner family photo)

Three months after shelving an ordinance that would have opened the door for residents of Duluth to keep up to three small hoofed animals — such miniature goats, pigs, horses or sheep — as pets, the Duluth City Council has trotted it out again.

 

At a Thursday night agenda session, councilors discussed a revised proposal, which could come to a vote Monday.

If passed, the ordinance would allow homeowners to obtain a license for hoofed animals that weigh no more than 50 pounds at maturity.

Noting that three animals can quickly turn into more if allowed to freely procreate, 1st District City Councilor Gary Anderson asked what the city would do to make sure licensees didn't exceed the stated limit.

Keith Hamre, Duluth's director of planning and construction services, said owners of hoofed animals would need to apply for a license on an annual basis and confirm the number of animals they have on their property. He also said a city animal control officer would perform occasional inspections to ensure compliance.

License applicants would be asked to provide a list of all neighbors within 150 feet of the property where the animals would be kept, as well as the written approval of more than half of them.

Hoofed animals would be allowed only on large residential lots, 2 acres or more in size. They also would need to be kept in an enclosure, with the fence set back at least 75 feet from any property lines.

A roofed well-ventilated structure would be required to provide the animals with shelter from the elements. The ordinance also calls on property owners to pick up after any hoofed pets on a daily basis in order to maintain sanitation and minimize odors.

Anderson asked whether the city would be up to the task of enforcing the proposed ordinance.

Hamre said the city currently has just one animal control officer. But he also noted that only one known property owner in the city currently keeps hoofed animals — a trio of pygmy goats.

Hamre pointed out that the 2-acre minimum lot size requirement "narrows down the number of properties that can have goats." He said that only 227 residential properties in the city would meet that threshold.

"So I think the scope of the potential enforcement is somewhat limited," Hamre said. He said that he had consulted Interim Police Chief Mike Tusken, who felt the additional responsibilities would be manageable.

The change in city code is intended to allow for hoofed creatures to be kept as pets, not for agricultural purposes, and any slaughter of animals within the city of Duluth would be forbidden.

If animals escape and cause a public nuisance or if three or more other violations are documented, the ordinance would authorize the city to revoke a homeowner's license to keep hoofed animals.

Questions about whether the city truly was prepared to deal with miniature goats, sheep, pigs and horses were raised by 3rd District Councilor Em Westerlund.

"The city's staff down at animal control has expressed some concerns about this, both because of a lack of familiarity and a lack of capacity. I'm wondering if there are any plans with the passage of this ordinance for maybe some training in regard to handling animals of these kinds and also whether our current facility can accommodate a pig," she said

Hamre said he didn't know what sort of training regimen would be required, if any.

If there were problems, he said: "Obviously they would probably need to pull in officers to assist if there are larger issues."

"I'm sure it would be an elite tactical unit," Hamre joked.

On a more serious note, David Montgomery, the city's chief administrative officer, offered assurances, saying: "We'll have those discussions with the police department and animal control."

But he said the process will probably require the city to watch the situation as it evolves and then respond accordingly.

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