The 15 Million Dollar Goat

Photo: Ross Arbo
Photo: Ross Arbo

An eleven year old girl in Saanich is petitioning her municipality to re-write bylaws to make it easier to own miniature goats in residential areas. She argues that miniature goats can provide pure milk and natural fertilizer, are excellent lawnmowers, and asserts the bylaws (maximum two goats on lots larger than 1.6 acres, and the goats must be females, neutered males, and dehorned) are too restrictive.

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell says he supports her idea, and the process to reconsider the bylaws is underway.

This fun little nugget of news appeals to the media on a few levels – the age of the petitioner, the trend of backyard farming, and, of course, the quirkiness and popularity of goats – so the story has grown some legs and prompted a few letters to the editor and national exposure.

Saanich would not be alone should they ease the goat restrictions – I could find a number of cities that allow goats with restrictions in the city – Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, and Portland are good examples.

But like all media we consume, we tend to view it with our own lens. So, let’s talk about goats in New West.

Just like chickens, which have always been allowed in our backyards, New West already allows livestock in residential areas. No petition to City Hall required!

Curiously, the bylaws governing urban livestock and poultry aren’t in the recently overhauled Animal Care and Control bylaw (Sidenote: excellently re-written, New West – kudos), but rather in the Public Health Bylaw, # 4271, last revised back in the 60’s, but written in the 30’s. I double checked with the City that the bylaw still stands, and sure enough, the helpful people at City Hall confirmed that yes, Bylaw 4271 is alive and well, though quite infrequently accessed.

Feel free to read them all yourself in all their rickety PDF glory: the poultry and rabbit bylaws start on Page 2, and the animals section – which refers to cows, calves, horses, mules, sheep and goats – starts on page 3. Note the absence of pigs – Bylaw 4271, 9 (a) states pretty clearly that that keeping of swine is forbidden.

Like most cities that allow goats, there’s some tight conditions to keeping them, so tight in fact, that it’s basically impossible unless you are a kooky and/or goat loving billionaire. Development of the city means we have very few unused large plots of land, and those that don’t have some sort of building on them are privately held. The bylaw states (among other things);

9 (b) No animal shall be kept in any shed, pen, or other enclosure situated at a lesser distance than 150′ from the nearest dwelling, place, or house, nor less than 25′ from any road, street, or lane.

9 (c) No animal shall be allowed on less than 1 acre which shall be exclusive of land occupied by dwellings, outbuildings, and garden.

9 (d) For each animal, 1 acre of land will be provided exclusive of dwellings, outbuildings, and garden.

9 (e) For each additional animal, one half acre of land will be provided exclusive of dwellings, outbuildings, and garden.

9 (f) The maximum number of animals on one site shall be five (5).

An acre is 43,560 square feet. My 1912 house sits on a lot roughly 5,000 square feet. It’s a bit smaller than the average lot, a long skinny thing with smaller frontage than typical, but still not the smallest lot in the city. Even if I had no house, shed, or garden (which I have all of), I’d need nearly 40,000 extra square feet. Calculating for the 18 houses on my block (I’m on a cul de sac), I’d say I’d need roughly $15 million dollars to buy all my neighbour’s properties, knock them down, and install my goat into his/her yard.

That’s one expensive goat.


This is a post from our new monthly series, Ask Arbo, in which I answer questions sent in by you! Quirky and random questions about our fine city encouraged! What do you want me to find out? 


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