Skip to main content

The City Journals

Pygmy goats - pets or livestock?

Mar 07, 2018 09:23AM ● By Cassie Goff

City officials referred to San Diego’s ordinance for pygmy goats while considering the need for a similar ordinance in Cottonwood Heights. (San Diego)

Miniature animals are becoming more popular within the pet industry. There are miniature horses (which can be emotional-support animals), teacup dogs, mini cows, pygmy monkeys, dwarf frogs and tiny turtles. One of the miniature animals spiking in popularity within Cottonwood Heights is the pygmy goat. Within the last year, Code Enforcement Officer John Lovato has received numerous complaints about bleating goats.

During a visit to one of the goat owners, Officer Lovato was ready to issue a citation. Instead, the goat owner requested some time to research solutions to the goat’s bleating and to talk to the city about the issue. Lovato agreed under the condition they be proactive with the issue in their local government.

After the goat owner learned that goats tend to become noisy when in heat, they contacted Councilmember Tali Bruce. “The goat was belching because it was in heat — the owner didn’t know it would do that,” Bruce said.

Currently within city code, goats are considered livestock. While livestock animals are allowed in agricultural areas of the city, they are not allowed in residential zones. This means that residents keeping pygmy goats as pets are out of compliance.

During the city council meeting on Feb. 6, the Cottonwood Heights City Council invited Dr. Laurel Harris with the Wasatch Exotic Pet Clinic and Randy Williams with the health department to discuss if city regulations are needed for pygmy goats.

Harris reported to the council that the previously mentioned goat owner had visited her to have the goat spayed. She recommended allowing six weeks before Lovato goes to check on the situation again, since it may take about six weeks for the goat to quiet down.

The council asked Harris if she thought there were additional pet pygmy goats within the city.

“I see tons of them in the clinic,” Harris said. She estimates there are at least 12 pet pygmy goats in the city. She also noted that she sees more pygmy pigs than pygmy goats in her clinic, so she thinks there are pet pigs in the city as well.

From her comments, the main question articulated became: should the council consider allowing pygmy goats in residential areas instead of only agricultural zones? If they did, city staff would need to draft an ordinance pertaining to the keeping of pygmy goats, and pigs, in residences.

Senior Planner Mike Johnson provided reference of an ordinance from San Diego specifically addressing pygmy goats. He reported that many cities have similar ordinances.

Within the San Diego ordinance, owners have to follow specific requirements to keep pygmy goats, which address unique challenges to the keeping of such animals. For instance, pygmy goat owners are required to have no less and no more than two pygmy goats, along with an outdoor pen and structure. Male goats are also required to be neutered and dehorned.  

“Noise is the biggest issue with goats,” Harris said when the council asked for her concerns with them in residential areas. “They are social animals — I agree with keeping two together. They will be quieter if kept in pairs.”

Additionally, she noted that “males need to be neutered or they stink.”

Williams added to the list of concerns with pygmy goats. “The big thing for us is disease,” he said. “Goats can have rabies. An ordinance would have to include rabies vaccinations.”

“They can carry other diseases as well,” Williams said. “They can carry diseases similar to cattle.”

He noted that an ordinance would have to address that feeding, watering and feces are handled properly.

“There are benefits to keeping pygmy goats,” Harris chimed in. “They can produce milk. You can also compost feces from a goat. It can be tilled into the soil.”

City Manager John Park referenced the current city code. “We classify goats as livestock. We allow them in different areas then allowing dogs.” He asked Harris if that’s how she would classify the animals. 

“Pygmy goats were classically livestock but they have come into the pet trade,” Harris explained. “They are semi-agricultural and semi-exotic pets.” Harris felt the goats could fall under the umbrella of exotic pets. 

 “We can allow goats and pigs as medium livestock in residential zones,” Johnson said.

After the discussion, the Cottonwood Heights City Council asked Johnson if he, along with members of the planning staff, could do more research on pygmy goat ordinances. Staff has been asked to come back to the council with a plan, whether it be a draft of what such an ordinance would look like within the city, or if the exotic pet ordinance can be adapted.

Update: On May 22, the drafted ordinance to allow pygmy goats and miniature pigs as pets within the city was brought to the Cottonwood Heights City Council for consideration of action. Mayor Mike Peterson asked for a motion. After it was clear the councilmembers were not going to entertain a motion, by a few minutes of silence, Councilmember Tali Bruce motioned to bring it back for further discussion. The motion was not seconded. Ordinance 297 died on the floor for lack of motion in any direction.