Lexington residents may raise chickens and bees in their back yards. Now, the Blue Grass Goat Justice League says it's time for goats to have equal rights.
League members turned out Tuesday for a meeting of the Urban County Council Planning and Public Works Committee to support an ordinance revision to allow goats and miniature pigs in urban areas of Lexington.
Goats fit with the sustainable-farming movement, said council member Steve Kay, who made the proposal.
Changing the ordinance would allow pygmy or dwarf goats no taller than 24 inches at the withers, the top part of the shoulder. Potbelly or miniature pigs no larger than 22 inches at the withers or 150 pounds would be permitted, but there could be no more than two pigs per home.
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Cities that permit goats to be raised include Louisville; Seattle; St. Paul, Minn.; Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Charlottesville, Va., said Lara Doth de Martinez, a Goat League member.
De Martinez, a mother of five, said there is a niche for goats to provide weed control, milk, meat and fiber. Having fresh goat milk is what piqued de Martinez's interest initially. "Half of my family is allergic to cow milk," she said.
Granted, goats might have limited appeal and would not be compatible with a family's back-yard vegetable garden. But it's an enticing idea for the "do-it-yourselfer," de Martinez said, "to that sort of person interested in growing their own food, not having to depend on the grocery store all the time."
That includes people "who want organic and humanely raised meat at an affordable price, people who want to be sustainable," said Curtis Caldwell, another League member.
In inner-city Lexington, where many residents are poor, permitting people to raise goats and pigs becomes an economic issue, Kay said. "It would allow them to eat healthy and sustainably," he said.
Changing the ordinance would open an opportunity for urban children to raise animals, de Martinez said. "The 4-H has a livestock club that will guide a child through selecting an animal, caring for it and showing it at county and state fairs, but now you have to have a farm to participate in the livestock club," she said.
Currently, a city ordinance prohibits keeping goats or pigs in an urban area, said Dewey Crowe, director of the division of building inspection.
The ordinance doesn't prohibit horses and chickens. "You can have a horse or you can have chickens — as long as they are fenced in and can't get out of the yard," Crowe said. "They are allowed simply because they are not prohibited by ordinance. And there are a few scattered horses around the city.
"We always figured being the horse capital of the world and not allowing people to have horses would not be a good thing to do," he said with a chuckle. Besides, horses need so much room to eat and gallop, "it is not a practical thing for most people to do, so it is self-regulating."
Having back-yard chickens has become so popular that Cluck!, a group of residents who raise chickens in the city, had a Tour de Coops last spring.
The Goat Justice League is circulating a petition — restricted to Fayette County residents — to allow back-yard goats and other small livestock animals no more than 42 inches high and not exceeding 300 pounds.
"Those numbers are not arbitrary," de Martinez said. "They come from the upper limits of dog breeds. If you can have a dog that size in your back yard, a goat is no different."
The Goat Justice League actually would prefer allowing standard-size goats because they are quieter and don't jump around as much as their miniature cousins, de Mar tinez said.
Information about the petition and back-yard goats may be found at Facebook.com/Bluegrass.Goat.Justice.League.
Committee members voted Tuesday to refine language in the proposed revision, Kay said.