Saanich youngster wins approval for backyard goats

Council votes unanimously to approve an 18-month pilot project for up to 10 homes

Jillian McCue (left) and friend Taylor Specht celebrate Saanich’s approval for the backyard goat pilot project on the steps of Saanich Municipal Hall.

There will be goats, not many, but at least a few, in Saanich.

It took more than three years but Jillian McCue’s persistence has earned residents the right to keep miniature goats as backyard pets in Saanich.

With only one other party besides the McCues showing interest in the pilot program, however, there was some question among Saanich council on Monday night as to whether the backyard goat pilot project should be deferred to 2017. But in the end, council voted unanimously to approve McCue’s wish, and commence with an 18-month pilot project for up to 10 homes.

“We don’t know the level of support until we start this,” said Mayor Richard Attwell. “We don’t know the full benefits.”

Twelve-year-old Jillian stepped to the podium, as she’s done so many times, but this time asked for just one thing, an amendment to the staff-prepared motion, to reduce the distance of supporting neighbours of the pilot program from within 100 metres to 50 metres.  Council granted it in a 7-2 vote.

“Thirty-five metres is three houses over and 100 metres would be going all the way to the neighbours behind us who are quite far away, quite unnecessary,” said McCue, who celebrated the approval with considerable jubilation outside council chambers.

Among council’s concerns was a resident-supported response as to whether Saanich staff should be working on this or something more important. All agreed it was interesting but the voices of dissent were few and far between. Only one representative, from the Residents Association of Strawberry Vale, Marigold and Glanford, brought public concerns to the podium. Those included the cost of staff time dedicated to the pilot project as a priority.

But with the agenda item having made it this far, council was content to push it ahead.

Good thing, because McCue already has her goats picked out. Millie and Ivy are a pair of fainting goat sisters from a North Saanich farm, and she’ll continue visiting them every two weeks until they can both come home. The youngest is still nursing and needs three months more, just enough time, likely, to complete the necessary paperwork for the pilot project.

“We have most of the pen done but I’m working on it still to make sure it’s suitable,” McCue said. “They are very social animals which is why I want two.”

The goat house is actually the McCue family’s 60-square-foot treehouse. All it needs is a ramp for the goats, who love climbing. Ironically, the ramp will now have handrails along it, because fainting goats have a tendency to tip over when they’re excited or scared, McCue said.

The goats usually live 12 to 18 years. They are about the size of a labrador dog and are expected to eat weeds, grass and shrubs. With plenty of invasive English ivy, dad Rich McCue is happy to bring the goats aboard.

“I actually thought Saanich might take long enough to do this that Jillian would become a teenager and move on, but now we’re prepared for mini goats,” Rich joked.

The inspiration initially came from a visit with a friend in California. They kept a goat on their half-acre orchard to keep the weeds, lawn and shrubs down.

Many questions are still unanswered, such as whether the goats will be deemed illegal should the 18-month trial period fail to gain further approval. One suggestion was to grandfather the right to have goats on the pilot properties.

Jillian’s friend Taylor Specht shared in the enjoyment. The Fernwood resident is looking to create a similar campaign to allow miniature kuenkune pigs in Victoria.


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