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Letter to the Editor: Town of Herndon, Please Let Me Keep My Miniature Pet Goats

A resident explains how the fresh dairy her miniature pet goats provide helps her health condition, and they do not disturb her neighbors.

Miniature goats (Photo: Creative Commons)
Miniature goats (Photo: Creative Commons)
Editor's Note: This letter to the editor was submitted to Patch by Town of Herndon resident Kathe Barsotti. Letters to the editor can be submitted to Editor Jennifer van der Kleut at jennifer.vanderkleut@patch.com.


My name is Kathe Barsotti. I've lived on Virginia Avenue in Herndon with my husband and sons for more than twenty years. My primary occupation is "Home-Making Engineer and Educator" (i.e., home-schooling, stay-at-home Mom) with a penchant for animal rescue efforts throughout our region. At various times over the past twenty years I've had backyard hens so I may provide my family with fresh eggs.

Two pet miniature goats were given to me for my last birthday. My family has been thoroughly enjoying our new pets -- their sweet dispositions provide stress relief, and we get a little extra exercise while playing with them, but most importantly, for my health issues and rheumatoid arthritis, their milk is invaluable for my diet.

I keep my pets very clean and healthy, in alignment with my goal of producing fresh dairy to help treat my health condition.

Last year, I needed a cane to get around -- fresh goat milk's properties have allowed me to put my cane in the closet.

Our pets are in bed by dusk, and miniature pet goats are quieter than most dogs and definitely quieter than gas-powered lawn equipment!. Pet goats also do a great job of eating invasive weeds and keeping the lawn under control without decimating it (they only eat to within three inches of the ground).

Currently, I'm working with the Town of Herndon's Zoning and Subdivision Services department to change the town's ordinance to include pet miniature goats. Herndon has a long and rich history of being a farm and dairy town. Upscale neighborhoods in many cities and towns throughout the U.S. (Charlottesville, Virginia among them) are now allowing pet miniature goats as an eco-friendly, sustainable method of providing healthy milk and cheese to their resident families, making use of kitchen and garden waste, keeping weeds and lawns under control, and producing fertilizer for home gardens.

If you can find it in your heart to support me in my need to keep these beloved family pets for my health and for our greater community at large, I would appreciate you writing a letter to the Town of Herndon, defending our rights to the peaceable occupancy of our land with pets that do not disturb our neighbors.

If you are willing and able to do so, please write a letter (e-mail is acceptable also) to: Town of Herndon Planning Commission (community.development@herndon.va.gov) and/or to the Mayor and Town Council (town.clerk@herndon-va.gov). I've also provided some information below that could be used in your letter(s).

New ordinances will be considered on Aug. 5, 2013. Feel free to attend this meeting. If you'd like to be kept informed about this issue (i.e., meeting time changes) please respond to me by e-mail to kathebarsotti@gmail.com.

Thank you in advance for our support.

Please come to my house for a visit to meet our pet goats!

Sincerely,
Kathe Barsotti
703.737.1578

PET GOAT FACTS (provided by Kathe Barsotti): 

1. Herndon is currently considering amending our zoning ordinance to allow for miniature pet goat breeds. At this time, the zoning office is considering if the amendment will be brought before the council by the Monday, July 22 working meeting date. Please ask that the issue to be addressed soon, and ask that the zoning office will allow me to keep my goats until the issue is resolved so that I may keep my pet goats from being upset by having to go into a boarding situation. 

2. Herndon would benefit in many ways by the beauty and charm of miniature pet goats. Miniature, dwarf, or pygmy goats provide many advantages for residents -- they are sustainable, eco-friendly pets which add to the historic feel of the Town of Herndon. Urban backyard goat-keeping has been gaining in popularity with upscale neighborhoods looking for sustainable ways to provide healthy food to their families. Miniature pet goats are environmentally-friendly - they are living weed-eaters that clear and control invasive weeds without the use of chemical herbicides; they are at least 25% smaller than America's most popular dog breed (the Labrador, which weigh 80-100 pounds); they are loyal and non-aggressive; they can't bite (no upper incisors); they're quieter than most dogs and all gas-powered lawn equipment; they can walk on a leash; they can be potty-trained like dogs; and they are bred for the express purpose of being low-impact, productive pets. Their diet is strictly vegetarian -- as a result they produce organic fertilizer with no odor (such odors are associated with un-neutered billy goats) which can be composted into valuable garden fertilizer (unlike dog waste).

3. Keeping two neutered male or two female goats with kids on a lot of 10,000 sq. ft. or more within the Town of Herndon limits will allow homeowners to clear and control invasive weeds without the use of petroleum-based chemicals or noisy and exhaust-producing lawn equipment. Lately goats have been gaining in acceptance as low-carbon mowers and as pesticide-free tools to eliminate weeds and clear brush. Keeping pet goats as a source of organic, low-food-miles milk is one more advantage. 

4. In 2007, the Seattle City Council passed a measure allowing small goats to be kept within city limits. Anyone with a 25 x 25 foot area within their yard may keep goats as a source of local food. Berkeley, Calif., allows homeowners two female goats and kids for their urban backyard gardens.

5. Two miniature goats provide enough dairy for one household to make cheese and yogurt as well as fertilizer for the garden. But these ruminants don't only provide for the urban homestead -- they also help dispose of what would otherwise be waste. Or, in terms of permaculture principles, they close the loop so there is no waste -- they eat garden (and kitchen) discards, then their waste then becomes food for the garden. 

6. Miniature goats can also be potty-trained; can walk on a leash; can be clicker-trained like dogs; and can fetch balls, sit, and come when called. They are clearly pets - not livestock.

7. Goats need to be in the company of at least two of their own kind - they are herders and need company - and will need a shelter to be set no closer than two feet from backyard property line.

8. Other cities and towns that allow goat-keeping are: 

Charlottesville, Virginia
Portland, Oregon
Matthews, North Carolina
Seattle, Washington
Los Angeles, California
San Francisco, California
Nashville, Tennessee
St. Paul, Minnesota
St. Louis, Missouri
Pasadena, California
New York , New York
Dixon, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois
Berkeley, CA
Cleveland, Ohio
San Diego, CA
Fort Worth, Texas

9. More information:

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/offbeat/2010-03-02-urbangoats_N.htm

http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/got_your_goat/

www.backyardecosystem.com/urban-farming/goat-mischief-more-guest-post-interview-itty-bitty-farm-citys-heidi-kooy/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kirsten-dirksen/the-campaign-to-bring-goa_b_683719.html

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/362065

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/08/goats-angels-flight-downtown-los-angeles.html

http://www.ibu-la.org/index.php/blog/summary_of_animal_keeping_laws_in_los_angeles/

http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/26475494.html

http://www.chicagofarmandtable.com/2012/05/31/goats-in-chicago/

http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2010/03/16/this-little-goat-lived-in-the-city/

http://www.nycgovparks.org/photo/general/goats_at_freshkills_park/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAudezneHO8

http://goatjusticeleague.org/?page_id=70

http://goatjusticeleague.org/?page_id=137

http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/goat-keeping-in-charlottesville/article_a2faf804-6beb-54d3-bab6-3b4d30d2c2cf.html

Town Officials You Can Write To:

Town Mayor: Lisa Merkel
Mayor.Lisa@herndon-va.gov

Vice Mayor: Connie Hutchison
Connie.Hutchinson@herndon-va.gov

Councilmembers: 
C. Melissa Jonas
Melissa.jonas@herndon-va.gov 

Dave Kirby 
dave.kirby@herndon-va.gov

Sheila Olem 
Sheila.Olem@herndon-va.gov

Charlie Waddell
charlie.waddell@herndon-va.gov

Grace Wolf 
Grace.Wolf@herndon-va.gov 

Planning and Zoning:
Herndon Municipal Center
777 Lynn Street
Herndon, VA 

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 427
Herndon, VA 20172-0427

Tel: (703) 787-7380
Fax: (703) 481-5280

community.development@herndon-va.gov

town.clerk@herndon-va.gov

TELL US - What do you think of Kathe's argument for the keeping of miniature goats as pets in Town of Herndon residences? Weigh in, in the comments below.

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John Whitten July 22, 2013 at 09:25 AM
Sorry, can't do it. Too busy regulating every possible facet of everybody's existence to even read your letter-- did you send a letter? I'm too busy to know... gotta outlaw ice cream on hot summer days next... busy busy busy.
Colleen McCartney July 22, 2013 at 10:11 AM
This is great! I am a TOH resident and this sounds like a very positive idea!
Mark Carolla July 22, 2013 at 11:14 AM
Sounds like a great idea. I would support the keeping of goats, and other small livestock but not of poultry. I've lived in areas where people have had backyard hens and I don't care about protestations to the contrary - they stink.
Leslie Perales Loges July 22, 2013 at 12:07 PM
Yay for adorable, tiny goats! I love goats. :D
Tom Kellner July 22, 2013 at 04:31 PM
If you wish to send correspondence to anyone in Town government, send it via way of the Town Clerk (town.clerk@herndon-va.gov). She will then forward it to anyone that you direct. The advantage of doing it this way is that your letter will become part of the official Town record.
Tom Kellner July 22, 2013 at 04:35 PM
I forgot to mention that Viki and her staff are quite prompt about forwarding anything and everything that I have ever sent.
Emily Sherfey July 22, 2013 at 06:17 PM
Let her keep her goats. Why not? She sounds like she's a responsible citizen. Love that she home schools and uses the goats as part of a learning experience for her children. Ill send email to the Town Clerk.

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