Gingi Freeman of Visalia has launched a grass-roots campaign to change the city’s animal ordinance so miniature goats can be kept as household pets.
She and her husband, an aviation electronics technician at Lemoore Naval Air Station, kept two dwarf Nigerian goats in their backyard until receiving a 10-day notice ordering the animals to be removed or face hefty fines.
They complied and moved them to a breeder’s home in the country — and began circulating a petition, in person and online, that gathered more than 1,000 signatures, Freeman said.
Last week, about 30 supporters rallied at City Hall.
They wore “I’m Pro Goat” stickers and held signs, including one proclaiming that pygmy goats are legal in San Diego, San Francisco, Pasadena, Seattle and New York.
Several advocates addressed the Visalia City Council during the public comment period.
But one of Freeman’s neighbors said goats belong in the country.
“You don’t know how much you are affected until you get the smell of feces and urine,” neighbor Carrie Fournier told council members. “It is the smell of a petting zoo.”
The goats diminished her family’s enjoyment of their property, she said: “We have a pool and we like to sit out there.”
Fournier gathered signatures on a counter petition and gave it to city officials.
For Freeman, 29, the mother of an infant and a toddler, it’s personal.
Due to surgery when she was a teen she cannot produce breast milk, so she uses fresh goat milk to make baby formula, she said.
“The World Health Organization lists goat milk as the closest thing to human breast milk,” she said. “These goats play a vital role in my household.”
Female goats under 65 pounds are appropriate in an urban environment, and concerns that they are a burden on neighbors are overblown, she said.
“Our retriever causes far more problems than our miniature goats,” she said.
It’s too soon to say if the city will change both the animal ordinance and zoning ordinance to allow backyard goats.
Council Member Amy Shuklian said her “rough count” of signatures on the pro-goat petition showed that less than half were Visalia residents.
Freeman started a new petition for Visalia residents only and said they’ve collected 700 signatures so far, and will circulate it at farmers markets and the College of the Sequoias campus.
She also launched a website: www.improgoat.com.
Mayor Steve Nelsen told proponents to meet with city staff on the issue.
To allow the goats, a draft ordinance must be written and the Visalia Planning Commission must hold a public hearing and make a recommendation to the Visalia City Council, officials said.
No date for a hearing has been set.
Once the council gets the commission’s recommendation, it must also hold a public hearing and vote on the proposed ordinance.
MADDY REPORT: Mark Keppler, host of “The Maddy Report” on television, will be the guest speaker next week at the League of Women Voters of Tulare County luncheon.
His topic will be “State Politics, Valley Implications.”
The event is noon May 19 at The Lamp Liter Inn, 3300 W. Mineral King Ave., Visalia.
Cost: $20 members and students, $25 nonmembers, via the group’s website or (559) 732-1251.