Pets of another species and their legal considerations
Got a ferret? Guinea pigs? Fish? Snakes? Goats? Chickens?
Consider that plans are in the works to limit their inclusion into the arsenal of accepted “pet” species. Wild, non-native species are especially targeted. This we know. Some of these rules seem fair. Some do not. And we live with the unfair manifestations of these emerging laws, fighting the regs tooth and nail, if we must.
Consider also that many municipalities exclude pets of a certain genetic persuasion to be unlawful...except in certain zoned areas.
Domesticated though they may be, residentially compatible as they doubtless are, goats and chickens are specifically excluded from life in suburbia throughout most of the US. That’s definitely the case in Miami-Dade County, where I live.
And so I flout the law, flying the flag of peaceful dissent through my civil disobedience in the form of backyard goats and chickens.
Though I accept that any of my animals that cause a disturbance may be dispatched through adoption or more conventional means (a recent rooster is my best example), I deny that any of my current pets are unworthy of suburbia.
After all, the multitude of free-roaming, nightly-screaming cats and the chronic canine escapees prove far more of a nuisance than any of my quiet, well-contained creatures. And don’t let me get started on the 4 AM barkers.
I live in a lush, one-acre lot in suburban Miami. My two goats and four hens live in the back half-acre of my property. It’s wooded and well-fenced. None of my backyard animals has ever escaped. Not a one presents a danger to human-kind or animal-kind. Indeed, they are vegetarians and they keep the parasite-load down. The goats keep invasive vines away. The chickens even eat fleas, ticks and intestinal parasites. (There’s no accounting for taste.)
Given all those pluses, you’d think my neighbors would love me for my choice of animals. And they do. (I run the free neighborhood petting zoo.) But my municipality doesn’t share their enthusiasm. Because they are classified as livestock, they are technically illegal.
Never mind that you can keep one horse per acre where I live. Never mind that the fancy private school one block away runs an “animal sanctuary” where animal escapes are commonplace (and seemingly encouraged). Never mind that peacocks are protected in our area (though they’re neither domesticated nor native––and certainly not quiet).
Given all that, it seems pretty unfair that I’m not allowed to legally maintain my pacific brood. And now that my next door neighbors’ once-jungly empty lot has been cleared, my pets are exposed for all to see. All it would take is one inspector. One complaint. One call to Animal Services.
That’s what’s got me to thinking about how to handle my situation. Should I opt for a zoning change? (an unlikely win in an expensive neighborhood full of McMansions, one would think). Should I launch a neighborhood petition? Should I take it up with my local commissioner? Or should I just put up a fence and keep my trap shut?
My family thinks I should put up the fence and put up with the risk of potential police action. In the meantime, I’ve got a backup plan: neighbors that will house my creatures for a few months while I lay low. It’s not much of a plan, but it should do in a pinch.
The current approach includes a makeover of my house: power clean, paint job, pretty trimmings, amped up landscaping, picket fencing, and yes, goat area coverage. I figure the plan has got to work. Make the house “fit in” more. Reduce the “eccentricity factor” I’ve got going. Continue to endear myself to my neighbors. And hope for the best.
It's so wrong, right? After a python strangled a Florida toddler last week (while she slept in her crib), with all the escaped reptiles in the Everglades, considering the nuisance and inhumanity of the stray animal situation...why go after mine?
What would you do? How do you handle your "unlawful" pets?