Guelph reconsiders goats, sheep as pets

The City of Guelph to reconsider proposal to have sheep, goats as domestic pet. Photo from Getty Images.
The City of Guelph to reconsider proposal to have sheep, goats as domestic pet. Photo from Getty Images.

The City of Guelph, in southwestern Ontario, has a proposal that would allow sheep and goats to be kept as pets in homes — harkening back to an earlier time, when it was actually permitted. The latest recommendations come in light of public consultations in 2015 and a suggestion by city staff to merge four existing animal control bylaws into one.

Intriguingly, the addition to permit sheep and goats in urban residential areas was made legal in a 1988 Exotic Animals Bylaw, but was altered and updated in 2013 to prohibit these animals in domestic situations.

Doug Godfrey, the General Manager of the city’s Operations Department, told Yahoo Canada News that the city had agreed, after 2013, to reconsider this in the next animal bylaw review.

“A number of residents have voiced various reasons for the keeping of goats and sheep including milk, wool and just a general pet,” wrote Godfrey in an email to Yahoo Canada News.

So, the city also “agreed to use discretion” in connection with any households that already had these animals – in contravention of the current law.

“Currently, there are about five residences with goats and sheep under the previous bylaw,” said Godfrey.

Under the proposed bylaw, an additional 12 properties would have the opportunity to host a maximum of two animals each – sheep or goats – under a pilot program to see if this could work.

Godfrey said the city wants to monitor the pilot properly over the one-year period so capping the number allows them to make sure noise and odour from the animals didn’t affect surrounding homes.

Other recommendations are:

– cat licensing to be phased in through 2017 and then mandatory for 2018, involving a $25 annual fee and ID tags or collars for cats without microchips.

– snakes and birds must be registered, although people who only own one bird will not have to register the animal

Godfrey said residents can still provide their opinions to the new proposals by writing to the city council or appearing before the Council’s Committee of the Whole, which will meet on Dec. 5 to be presented with the new animal control bylaw proposal.

Godfrey added that there is “no known precedent in Canada” for the keeping of sheep and goats as pets outside of Guelph.

The only other urban sheep in Canada are linked to a project in Montreal that allows two to seven sheep to graze at Parc du Pélican in the middle of the busy borough of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie. It’s a World Wildlife Fund project which aims to educate people about the eco-friendliness of sheep when it comes to the animals helping maintain a green space.

As for goats, Jillian McCue of Saanich, B.C., lobbied her local council back in April and now, under a test plan, she can have backyard pygmy goats — as opposed to the “normal” ones that Guelph is considering. McCue’s two mini-goats were made legal after she got written permission from all the neighbours within 50 metres of her backyard. McCue is not allowed to sell any milk, manure or goat-produced items.

The backyard chicken revolution
Looking at municipalities and the unusual pets they allow, you’d have to consider the movement in recent years promoting backyard chickens. This year, the City of Edmonton green-lit a plan to regulate urban hens, offering permits for a maximum of 50 chicken coops across the city for the next two years, as part of their study.

Potential hen-keepers will have to take a training course, build a coop with enough distance away from adjacent properties, have a manure-removal plan and notify their immediate neighbours.

The City of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., is now examining the feasibility of following Edmonton’s claw-steps. It should be noted that Guelph already allows chickens, ducks, geese and pigeons if they are kept in pens (anyone owning more than one bird must register the animals).

Other cities that have embraced backyard chickens include:

Vancouver: allows a maximum of four hens per lot, but roosters are forbidden. Residents are not allowed to slaughter the chickens in their backyard.

Whitehorse: up to six hens permitted on urban property, but only for personal use only and the owner can’t sell the eggs, manure, meat or other chicken products.

Victoria: the number of chickens must be consistent with the residents’ personal egg use. No roosters are allowed.

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