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Eleven-year-old champions mini goats as pets in Saanich

It took two years but Jillian McCue finally got a chance to state her case for domestic goats in Saanich on Monday (May 26)
Grade 6 Gordon Head middle school student Jillian McCue is pushing Saanich council to call for a bylaw amendment permitting mini goats as pets. She visited the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm last week to enquire about fence heights.

Eleven-year-old Jillian McCue waited two years to state her case for domestic goats in Saanich, and on Monday she finally got her chance.

Jillian delivered a well-prepared presentation to Saanich Council with a goal of relaxing agricultural bylaws and allow goats as pets in the District of Saanich.

Council offered a secondary step for Jillian to present in front of three Saanich advisory committees; Planning, Transportation and Economic Development, Healthy Saanich, and Environmental and Natural Areas.

“I put a petition together two years ago with 132 names from my neighbourhood and Saanich, including Gordon Head-Oak Bay MLA Andrew Weaver (who I found out is a neighbour),” said Jillian, a Grade 6 student at Gordon Head middle school. “I submitted it to Saanich but I didn’t hear back about it until now.”

When Mayor Richard Atwell learned about the submission he contacted the McCue family and visited to offer advice and explain how council will work.

With Jillian leading the charge, Atwell was expected to put forward a motion on Monday for Saanich staff to prepare a report on the feasibility of allowing pet goats.

“I was in California a few years ago when we visited a friend with pygmy goats, that’s when I first wanted one,” said Jillian, who visited Beacon Hill Children’s Farm last week to enquire about the necessary fence height.

“At first I kept researching them to prove to my parents I could manage one – if I can convince Saanich to allow miniature goats in our backyards it will prove to my parents I will be responsible.”

Among the benefits of goats are the fertilizer they produce, the fact they eat invasive species such as Himalayan blackberries, and their adaptability as pet companions. Jillian is seeking a ruling similar to that of Seattle, which passed a 2007 bylaw to allow pygmy, dwarf and miniature goats in urban backyards.

The negatives are more assumption than anything, she added. “People assume the noise and smell of goats will be bothersome but it’s not true,” she said. “You have to wash your hands after you pet them but that’s not unlike any animal.”

The Seattle Animal Shelter told the Saanich News in 2013 that they were unaware of a single complaint relating to smelly or noisy goats. Seattle’s backyard goat bylaw required that the animals be licensed, neutered and dehorned to be kept.

Allowing backyard goats opens another door to urban farming. Saanich revisited its rules around chickens in 2010. Backyard hens may be kept so long as they’re registered with Saanich.

“I would only get one or two goats, depending on how the first one gets along with my dog, because I would want it to have a companion,” Jillian said.


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