Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Getting Ones Goat

Lisa TwoRivers still believes Yolanda and Betty Boop are pets rather than livestock, despite a $ 1 fine this month from a circuit judge who found her in violation of a Little Rock ordinance prohibiting people from keeping goats within 300 feet of another residence.

“They’re like a cat in [that ] they want to lay in your lap, but they’re like a dog because they want to play,” she said Monday during a court break.

But a Little Rock ordinance mentioning horses, cows, and goats doesn’t differentiate between the 25-pound pygmy goat bred for companionship and a 140-pound Nubian goat used for milking. The city’s animal services advisory board voted last year against changing the ordinance after hearing about the TwoRivers case.

TwoRivers was cited April 25, eight days after an animal control officer issued her a warning for keeping livestock in violation of the ordinance. The officer saw the goats when he responded to a complaint about a chained dog and feces in her Wolfe Street yard. The family owned three pygmy goats at the time — one died shortly after — and has kept the breed as pets since 1980.

“We’ve always had animals there,” TwoRivers said, discounting arguments that her goats would harm neighbors ’ property values or cause them any physical harm.

A neighbor who initially complained about the animals has since moved away, she said.

“No one is going to care about a 25-pound goat when they can’t get through the neighborhood without hearing gunshots,” she said.

A Little Rock district judge fined TwoRivers $ 100 in penalties and court costs at an August hearing. She appealed.

This month, Circuit Judge Willard Proctor Jr. listened to TwoRivers’ testimony that she believed her beloved pygmy goats were pets that didn’t qualify as livestock since she wasn’t making money off them. They make very little noise — less than a dog, she said — and reside on a vacant lot between her family’s two houses.

TwoRivers also recounted how one of her goats gave her solace as she recovered from cancer and that a Little Rock animal control officer once brought her a sick pygmy goat to rehabilitate.

“The city has known about it for 25 years,” said Edward Adcock, TwoRivers’ attorney.

He argued that the goats should have been grandfathered in when the city changed the distance requirement from 75 feet to 300 feet, which is a typical city block. Little Rock changed its livestock buffer in 1992.

Adcock also said the ordinance was overly broad.

“These goats hurt nobody. In addition to being unconstitutional, it’s just plain stupid and ill-spirited of the city to do this,” he said.

His arguments didn’t sway Proctor, who read the ordinance out loud and said someone might consider a horse or a cow as a pet.

“You can just imagine what could happen in the city,” he said, adding that the ordinance clearly states what city officials think of as livestock and that the city has legal reasons for regulating animals.

Proctor, however, fined TwoRivers $ 1 instead of the recommended $ 200 after saying the city had known about the goats for years and never took any action against the family.

Hearing that TwoRivers’ fine was only $ 1, Animal Services Manager Tracy Roark said all he cared about was the guilty verdict. Roark said he couldn’t comment on what action the city would take next because he hadn’t talked to the city attorney but noted that his officers work on a complaint basis.

Neither Kobe TwoRivers, a city code enforcement officer, nor his wife could say after the court hearing what they would do next about Yolanda and Betty Boop.

Lisa TwoRivers said she hoped the city might still change its stance on pygmy goats as pets. She has also applied for a spot on the city’s animal services advisory board, saying she wants to provide a perspective on animals other than cats and dogs.

However, the change TwoRivers seeks is unlikely, said atlarge City Director Joan Adcock, who also serves on the animal services advisory board.

“There should be no exception for pygmy goats or potbelly pigs,” Joan Adcock said Monday. She is not related to TwoRivers’ attorney.

Potbellied pigs — popular pets in some places — are considered livestock since they have hooves and also are required to be kept at least 300 feet away from neighbors, Roark said. However, they are listed as an exemption in the city’s ordinance prohibiting swine from being kept inside city limits.


corruptioncatcher said...

I would like to know if Mrs. Tworivers got the position on the animal board. It all sounds very suspicious to me. These goats were there this many years and noone says anything about it until this roark guy goes after the family. Did you say the husband worked for the city too? Sounds like a personal situation. I am anxious to hear about the board.

FARMER TED said...

I hope this family still has their little goats. This is the most ridiculous attack on a family by the local government I have ever heard of. If the goats have been there for 3 decades the are grandfathered in. Are these city official really that ignorant?! I hope if this family has one more run in with these hillbillies they sue their asses off!!!

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder what personal vendetta those city officials had with Mrs. TwoRivers. Why did they attack her so vehemently?
What are they hiding?
This is a clear case of abuse of power.