Pet goats get reprieve—for now

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Feb 25, 2015 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

Toggy and Andy won’t be going anywhere just yet.

Alexandra Lezo, owner of the pair of pet pygmy goats, was ordered by Burnaby city hall to find a new home for them by March 3.

But after Lezo appealed to council on Monday, city staff will be looking into the feasibility of allow pygmy goats as pets in Burnaby backyards.

Lezo asked for the animals to be reclassified as domestic pets in the city and to establish a bylaw setting out requirements for their owners.

She stressed that pygmy goats are not farm animals and have fewer diseases communicable to humans than dogs are cats. Their diet consists mainly of hay and alfalfa, which don’t attract rats, and they don’t attract coyotes any more than other pets.

They’re easy to clean up after, with excrement similar to that of rabbits, and they are quiet, only making noise when they see their “human friends” and then only for a short time, Lezo said.

They’re safe and approachable animals “with a calming therapeutic effect,” she said.

They would need a minimum amount of yard space and secured shelters to protect them from predators, she said, noting her yard offers 1,800 square feet for the goats and they are locked in their sheds at night.

Lezo acquired the neutered goats 11 months ago. She wasn’t aware that the zoning of her South Burnaby property doesn’t allow goats to be kept. Such properties must be zoned for agricultural use.

Since then, they’ve become a fixture in the neighbourhood. There were no complaints until about a month ago when she put up a sign about the goats to help educate children from nearby Clinton elementary.

She got the letter from city hall not long afterwards.

Lezo stressed that before she got the goats she consulted Burnaby’s animal control bylaw and called city hall. The staff person she spoke with referred her to the animal bylaw again, which did not have any restrictions on goats.

“I really did obtain the goats in good faith.”

Mayor Derek Corrigan assured her “no one’s thought anything but you were entirely innocent in this.” But city staff were obligated to respond to the complaint made by someone after they saw the sign.

“We don’t drive up and down the street looking for ways to enforce the bylaw.”

Corrigan said it appears Lezo is a very good owner for the pets. “Unfortunately, not everyone is like you.”

One of the challenges for city staff is to determine whether a bylaw could be created that could apply to everyone and offer safeguards to ensure pet pygmy goats don’t become a problem in the city.

Lezo’s presentation was applauded by a group of supporters, a fact not lost on Corrigan.

“You have a lot of allies out there, including my executive assistant who has probably told me those goats are cute twice a day for the last week,” he said.

But the issue will require careful consideration because it could have far-reaching ramifications, he added.

Coun. Nick Volkow also appeared supportive. “People keep great danes in the city and they’re about five or six times the size of a pygmy goat for cryin’ out loud.”

Lezo also suggested pet pygmy goats could be licenced like dogs, something that already happens in cities such as San Francisco and Seattle.

Council directed city staff to report back on the issue.

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