Monday, June 23, 2014
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Lincoln Planning Commission says ďNoĒ to pygmy goats

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[June 23, 2014]  LINCOLN - Last Thursday evening the city of Lincoln Planning Commission convened for their monthly meeting.

The first order of business for the evening was to induct the newest member of the commission, Tracy Welch. Mayor Keith Snyder administered the oath of office to Welch, who was then able to participate and vote on the topics at hand.

Commissioners present for the meeting were Bruce Huskins, Robert Coombs, David Klug, Leo Logan, Cliff Marble, Vic Martinek, Snyder and Welch.

On the agenda was a request from Kaitlyn Heffren of Lincoln, to be allowed to keep her pet pygmy goats in the fenced-in backyard of her residence.

The goats belong to Heffrenís fiancť, Kenny Skirven. He has owned and housed the goats in his back yard for three years. In April of this year, a concern issued by a neighbor to the cityís building and safety office brought the situation to the attention of officer John Lebegue.

Lebegue notified Skirven and Heffren that keeping the goats in city limits was a violation of city code prohibiting livestock in city limits. The couple removed the goats, taking them to a friend who lives outside of town, where they have remained since the notice.

Heffren filed the request to be allowed to keep the goats, stating that they are not livestock per se but rather, they are family pets. The request was scheduled to be heard in May, but a lack of quorum postponed the decision to June.

The discussion began with Lebegue saying he had conducted a survey of 12 area communities, looking at their city codes in regard to goats specifically. He said the city of Galesburg allows goats, but they require two acres of grazing and to be located no less than 100 feet from any adjoining property.

The city of Washington allows goats inside city limits, but the property has to be zoned as agricultural.

Of the 12 codes he surveyed, the only other city to allow goats is Pekin.

Heffren then spoke at length about the care of the goats, their health and well-being, demeanor, and the lack of concern by neighbors about the goats.

She said the goats have a large fenced area to play in, a play structure, and a shelter all in the back yard. The family keeps the pens clean, and have not heard any of the neighbors complain about the goats.

She said when they got the goats three years ago, they did contact the city of Lincoln through the police department. The officer they talked to said there were no codes in the city pertaining to goats, so as long as they were taken care of and didnít cause a problem it was all right for them to be in the back yard.

She said since then there was one time when the police were called regarding the goats. It involved the fact that Skirven and Heffren took the goats out of the pen and ďwalkedĒ them in the community. She said the officer informed them that as long as they walked the goats on leashes, it was all right.

She also shared that one of their neighbors enjoyed having the goats in the community. He had written a letter of support that she wanted to share with the commission. The letter did state that the writer enjoyed the goats, liked watching them play in the backyard, and that he had no problem with having the goats in his neighborhood.

Heffren said all the neighbors know they have the goats. She said some bring their kids over to see the goats and watch them play.

Skirven addressed the commission saying he fully understood that there needed to be rules. He said it made sense that the city would not want someone raising five to 10 full sized goats in city limits. However, he said his situation is different. He has two small goats as pets.

He said the goats are better behaved, quieter, and cleaner than the dogs he owns. In addition, the goats were good for his young daughter. She is responsible for helping to care for them, and her primary duty is to see to it they are fed. He said this was helping teach her to care for animals and to be responsible.

The couple mentioned the current city code refers to livestock, but not everyone would consider a pygmy goat livestock. Skirven said many people own pygmies as pets, and as pets they become part of the family, like a dog or cat.

The couple mentioned again that they did try to get proper clearance for the goats when they got them. They noted that perhaps they went through the wrong channels, but were hopeful they would not be penalized for that now, three years after the fact.

Heffren said she understood that the city might be concerned that if goats are allowed, the town will be overrun with them, but she didnít believe that would happen.

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During discussion, Huskins asked if the goats carried any diseases that required vaccination. Heffren said she had discussed this with the veterinarians at Green Haven Veterinary Services in San Jose. She had been told there was not a vaccination program for pygmies. She had also learned that there are illnesses that the family needs to watch for, and had discussed with the veterinarians warning signs of sickness and preventative care.

Huskins asked if the couple is allowing the goats to breed. Skirven said the male goat has been withered, so there is no possibility of breeding.

Martinek wondered about the noise. Skirven said the female has a high pitched voice, but is not nearly as loud as his dogs. The male, he said has a very soft voice, almost like heís muted. In addition, he said the goats donít talk much. They make noise when they see their food coming out, but the rest of the time they are pretty quiet.

Welch asked about the damage done to the lawn of the home, which is a rental property. Skirven said the back lawn is divided into two fenced sections so the goats can be moved from one to the other. He also noted that the back lawn has several trees, and too much shade for grass to grow well there anyway.

He went on to say the goats have hay and leaves in the lots as bedding. Welch confirmed, then the area is not muddy. Skirven said when it rains it can be, but most of the time, no, it is not muddy.

Welch wondered about body waste. Heffren said pygmy goat waste is very similar to rabbit waste, as it is a small pellet, not nearly as massive as waste left behind by dogs.

Huskins asked Lebegue if he knew of any pot belly pigs or chickens in Lincoln. Lebegue said he had no knowledge of pigs. He said there were chickens, but they are now gone.

Huskins asked Skirven if the goats draw flies. Skirven said he didnít see that they did. They do draw birds he said because they fly in and steal the goat food.

Richard Sinks was a guest in the gallery. He stood and commented that he didnít see from what he had heard here that the goats would be any more annoying than barking dogs. He commented that the city allows all kinds of dogs including Pit Bulls that have been proven to be dangerous.

City treasurer Chuck Conzo was also in attendance as a guest. He said the couple lives in his ward, and though he personally doesnít live close to them, he still canít see having pet goats as a problem.

Logan recalled a few years back that there was a resident in Lincoln, who had about a dozen goats. He knew firsthand the goats were not a problem then. They didnít smell, and they did keep the grass mowed down. Logan commented that he is opposed to livestock in Lincoln, but a 30 pound Pigmy goat is no worse than a 40 pound dog. He said if the city was going to set limits, maybe they should consider limiting the size of dog allowed in the city.

Marble summed up the situation saying it appeared that Heffren and Skirven were taking good care of their goats, and it appeared they were not causing a problem for the neighborhood. But, he said the issue becomes will the next person to decide to raise goats in Lincoln do this well?

Huskins reinforced this asking if they city did allow the pygmies, who would police that to make sure all the animals are properly cared for.

Marble added that it would take only one bite and one case of rabies for this to become a huge problem for the city.

Martinek asked if the commission could issue a special use recommendation for Skirven and Heffren. Lebegue said not in this case. He said it would have to be a blanket policy that would open the door to everyone.

In the end, a motion was made to recommend to the Lincoln City Council that the request to allow pygmy goats as pets inside city limits be denied. That motion carried by a unanimous vote.

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