Neighborhood Goats Are Facing an Uncertain Future

(Tuesday, May 27, 2008 7:45 AM EDT)
What's an environmentally conscious and easy way to cut grass? For Arlington residents Bryant Nichols and Matt Haggerty, the answer was a pair of goats they bought on Craigslist.

But now, the county has stepped in, and the bleating duo, Carne and Leche, might be on their way back to the farm.

“We have until June 6 to get rid of them,” said Bill Daus, the owner of the property. “In [county zoning ordinance] section 5.A.2, it states you can't have livestock within 100 feet of a property line or road.”

But the goats' owners and other members of the house don't see the goats as livestock, and are trying to persuade the county to consider them as pets.

“We bought goat books and did lots of Internet research,” Nichols said. “The Arlington County Web site specified that swine and poultry were not allowed, so we thought we would have no problem with goats.”

Nichols and Haggerty bought the Nigerian Dwarf Carne and French Alpine Leche for $80 each from a farm in Nokesville, Va., and keep them in a fenced-off area in their back yard.

Although they've been using the goats' droppings to fertilize the garden, they said they are not using Carne and Leche to make money, as a farm would.

“Goats should be considered pets when they are kept for fun and as friends,” Nichols said. “Livestock animals are raised to be sold for profit. We never plan to make a financial profit on either Carne or Leche.”

(According to county spokesman Diana Sun, however, “the financial profit motive is not necessarily a definition” of livestock.)

And even though the goats escaped and ran down to the corner of Lee Highway and George Mason their first night in Arlington, they have been very well-behaved since then, Daus said.

“Originally I was a naysayer, but now I'm a supporter,” he said. “They don't smell at all. They're quieter than dogs, and make much less mess.”

“They are basically like a really shy, cute dog with no teeth that eats leaves, grass and weeds,” Nichols said.

The house's goat supporters have set up the Web site, (which has a live “goat cam”), to get people to sign petitions requesting that the county “exclude does (female goats) and wether (castrated male goats) from the definition of livestock.”

So far, they have 194 signatures, and hope to get 1,000 in the next two weeks.

What's the likelihood that the county will let Carne and Leche stay? “Anything is possible,” Sun said. “It's possible that the County Board would have to change the ordinance.”

But if the county doesn't allow the goats to remain in Arlington, Nichols, Haggerty and Daus are willing to battle to keep the pair.

“They're our pets now. We're attached to them,” Daus said. “We're really going to [fight] if we have to. We're ready to go to court for it.”

Carne is a Nigerian Dwarf goat that several North Arlington residents are keeping as a pet. County officials say Carne and another goat, Leche, can't stay.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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