Goats could soon be living in Ridgeway

RIDGEWAY – At last week’s town council meeting, council proposed an amendment to Ordinance 6-1001 which prohibits [live]stock and cattle from running loose on the streets of Ridgeway.

While the amendment is not aimed at reversing the ordinance to allow farm animals to run loose in town, it will, if passed, allow them to live there. Well, not all of them. Just some of them. Goats.

Mayor Heath Cookendorfer said the amendment tweaks an earlier amendment (Sec. 2 of the livestock ordinance) that was passed in October 2013 which reads:  “It shall be unlawful for any person or persons or corporations or firms or associations to keep swine, hogs, pigs, goats and horses within town limits of Ridgeway.”

The newly proposed amendment, if passed, will remove the word ‘goats’ from the list of animals prohibited from living in the town.

“With a situation that came up, we had discussion about removing ‘goats’ from the ordinance,” Cookendorfer said. “A resident has a goat and is asking to keep that goat.”

Councilman Rufus Jones asked if the ordinance says residents can’t have a goat or horse in their back yard.

“What the amendment is saying,” Town Clerk Vivian Case said, “is that someone is allowed a goat under the amendment, but they [goats] are still not allowed to run free.”

“Every residence in town is not compatible to having a goat,” Councilman Dan Martin said. “If you don’t have a third of an acre then you might not be allowed to have a goat. They are farm animals and need to be treated as farm animals. There will have to be some stipulations for how many goats you can have on a certain amount of property,” Martin said.

Goat Mowers

The issue arose when town resident Natalie Weathers recently brought two goats to live in the side yard of her residential property on Peach Street. When the Town gave Weathers notice that she was breaking the town laws by keeping the prohibited livestock within the town limits, she emailed town hall, asking council to reconsider the ordinance. In the email, she said she acquired the goats to mow her lawn.

While one of Weathers’ neighbors has complained about the goats in a letter to town hall and another in a phone call, Council dismissed the complaints and weighed in on Weathers’ side with a proposed amendment to allow goats to live anywhere in the town, with some guidelines.

“Do you want to put a limitation on the number of goats [a resident can keep]?” Cookendorfer asked his fellow council members during the meeting.

Councilman Don Prioleau suggested that council find a goat expert to say how much land a goat needs to live on.

“Yes,” Councilman Dan Martin said, “they are farm animals and need to be treated like farm animals. So if you have one in a 12’ x 12 kennel, I’ll be coming down the street to check on that.”

“We’re opening a can of worms,” Jones groaned. “Goats are farm animals…what’s the point? Goats are as smelly as cows.”

“We’re restricting everything except goats and chickens. We’re saying we’re going to limit how many goats you can have on the size of your land,” Councilwoman Angela Harrison said.

Weathers has both goats and chickens. While neighbors say she allows her chickens to roam free, that’s okay in Ridgeway, Councilman Dan Martin said. The town’s ordinance does not specifically prohibit chickens from running loose in the streets of the town.

Weathers’ goats are currently housed in a 15’-or-so x 15’-or-so chain link fence kennel with several tarps draped over parts of it. Martin told The Voice that Council is allowing Weathers to keep the goats under those conditions until the amendment is resolved – passed or voted down – which likely won’t occur until mid-September.

“We need to talk about minimum acreage and fencing. We need input on this,” Cookendorfer said, looking to his fellow council members for wisdom on the subject.

Council members generally agreed they need more information before voting and tabled the issue until Martin can research how much land is needed per goat.

So far, Weathers has not appeared at a council meeting to state her case. Council has taken the lead. Neither have any of her neighbors showed up to publicly address the issue, for or against the goats.

Town Clerk Vivian Case told The Voice that a public hearing is not required for a text amendment to an ordinance.

During the public comment session that followed, Randy Bright, a resident of the rural area outside the town, suggested Council contact the local Hoof and Paw organization to discuss the ramifications and space needed to adequately keep goats at a residence inside the town limits.