Jillian McCue

Jillian McCue

Mini-goat pilot project on track in Saanich

Jillian McCue works her way through Saanich municipal hall to get goats in her backyard

It won’t be a stampede, not even a mini one, but it looks like mini goats will get at least get a trial as pets in Saanich.

The issue was brought to Saanich Council in May by 11-year-old Jillian McCue, who begins Grade 7 at Gordon Head middle school in September.

McCue has since followed Council’s suggestion and presented the case in front of three Saanich advisory committees; Planning, Transportation and Economic Development, Healthy Saanich, and Environmental and Natural Areas.

“She presented to us for about 20 minutes plus about 30 more minutes of questions and discussion,” said Coun. Dean Murdock, who chairs the ENA committee. “We’re excited as it’s the first time to have goats as a topic at the committee.”

All three committees are ready to forward the issue to staff for study, with the ENA recommending council undertake a pilot project as part of a feasibility study that looks at allowing backyard goats in Saanich, he said.

“It’s really good news, I think it might make it so (the parties involved) will understand goats aren’t noisy and smelly,” McCue said.

Seattle is the precedent for McCue’s case, as that city legalized a maximum of three back yard goats per property in 2007 and has just 50 on about 280,000 residential lots, Murdock said.

“I think what it is in Seattle would be a good framework,” McCue said.

ENA is taking the additional step of asking council to consider a pilot project, with the hopes of expediting process.

“When Saanich permitted back yard chickens it was an 18-month process that started in 2009 (and ended in 2010),” Murdock said.

Rather than create a bylaw amendment, the ENA is hoping staff will accept an exemption to the agricultural rules which restrict goats as pets, and would thereby permit a family, such as the McCues, the opportunity to adopt a goat (or two) while Saanich does a broader implementation across the municipality.

“As we have a family (the McCues) who are keen, they’d likely be a good candidate, but it’s up to council to give that direction to staff,” Murdock said. “To have faced down three Saanich advisory committees and council, (McCue’s done) more than some adults would do or have done (to change a bylaw).”

The current recommendations will likely land on Council’s agenda in July though there is no timeline on when a possible pilot project could be permitted. McCue said there’s interest from her neighbours and community members to adopt goats as pets but no one has committed on paper, as of yet.

“I’m happy with the speed it’s happening, I’m thankful for the (community support),” McCue said.