Our View: No need for goat ordinance
August 6, 2011
The Steamboat Springs City Council should rethink an ordinance expanding residents' ability to keep goats in the city limits.
Residential demand for keeping goats as pets simply isn't significant enough to warrant changing existing law, especially if the new law invites future nuisance disputes between neighbors. Fortunately, City Council members can avoid these headaches by voting "no" when the ordinance comes up for second reading in September. We urge them to do so.
The city already allows goats on building lots of a half-acre or more in residential areas. The new ordinance, approved on first reading Tuesday, would allow residents to have two to three domestic goats in fenced enclosures with sufficient area to afford 200 square feet per animal anywhere single-family homes or duplexes are allowed. The ordinance would require that the enclosures be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent the attraction of pests and offensive odors, that pest control be used and that feed be stored in bear-proof containers. Goats couldn't be used for commercial purposes and could not be slaughtered on the property.
We don't see the requirements as particularly helpful; rather, we anticipate conflicts between residents who decide to build a goat pen and their neighbors, who are somewhat less enamored of the goats' smell, noise or habit of eating everything they can reach. We see an enforcement headache for the city in trying to determine what constitutes an offensive odor, the source of pests or a reasonable level of goat noise.
Council member Walter Magill, the only council member to vote against the ordinance, rightly pointed out that most Steamboat residents have no idea the impact the goat ordinance might have on the community.
Proponents say that goats are great for noxious weed control. But a new ordinance isn't necessary for that. There are goat herds in the county that can be rented for a day or two to rid a property of undesirable weeds like white top. The city could encourage and support that practice or, better yet, acquire its own goat herd to use in such a manner.
Magill suggested that the city consider a pilot program. We'd prefer that to the new ordinance.
But given that the city already allows goats under reasonable conditions and the lack of a compelling reason to expand that policy, the council's best course of action would be to reject the new goat ordinance Sept. 6 and move on to more pressing matters.