City Debates Farm Animal Issue

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), February 11, 2013 | Go to article overview

City Debates Farm Animal Issue


Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

Should your neighbors in Eugene be allowed to have up to six chickens, six rabbits, two pygmy goats, one miniature pig and two beehives?

And should those goats and other farm animals need to be licensed, just like dogs?

Those are among the questions the City Council will tackle tonight as it continues work on an ordinance to regulate backyard farming in the city limits.

The ordinance is an attempt to strike a balance between encouraging the increasingly popular trend of backyard farming while protecting nonfarming residents from noise, odors and other problems.

The city's previous farm animal ordinance has been suspended because it only allowed two adult chickens. It was viewed as being out of touch with what is happening in many of the city's backyards, where residents keep several chickens plus other animals, such as pygmy goats and even beehives.

The proposed ordinance before the council would permit four categories of animals - chickens and other domestic fowl, rabbits, miniature goats and pigs. In addition, beehives would be allowed.

The proposed rules were written during the past couple of years by the city staff with input from backyard farmers. The rules include requirements for care of animals, setbacks from neighboring properties, sanitation, noise, shelters and fencing.

In its original form, the regulations would have allowed residents on most urban-sized lots to keep up to six chickens, six rabbits, two pygmy goats, one miniature pig up to 150 pounds, plus up to two beehives.

But in reviewing the ordinance, the city's planning commission added a limitation so that residents only could keep two categories of animals, plus the beehives.

City land use analyst Kristie Brown said planning commissioners limited the types of animals as a way to reduce the potential impacts of backyard farming in the city, where people live close together.

But south-central Councilor George Brown said he has talked with backyard farmers who want the ability to keep the wider of variety of animals.

Brown this evening will ask his colleagues to eliminate the two-category limit so residents can keep the four types of animals allowed under the ordinance's original wording, plus bees.

Most backyard farmers are "sensible people" who won't let their animals bother neighbors, Brown said.

"People want to have more freedom to increase their options for urban animal keeping," he said.

"As long as they meet city standards for sanitation, shelter and fencing, why not?"

Brown said he also will ask the council to increase the number of allowed pygmy goats from two to three because "goats are sociable herd animals and do better in the company of their fellows." Brown also wants to boost the number of permitted bee hives from two to three.

In a letter to city councilors, Bill Bezuk, owner of The Eugene Backyard Farmer store, said the planning commission's restriction is counter to definition of urban farming, which is "layering the many aspects of farming into a small manageable space."

"My house sits on an 8,000-square-foot lot with the backyard comprising 5,000-square feet," he wrote. "There is no reason why I cannot keep chickens, ducks, turkeys, bees, rabbits and even some micro livestock."

Not every backyard farmer thinks limiting residents to two types of animals is unreasonable.

Michael Scott, a south Eugene resident who has four chickens, said keeping animals on relatively small lots in a city is different than in the country.

"I wouldn't want to live next to somebody with five different kinds of animals in a small backyard," he said.

"If you want to have more than two categories of animals, plus bees, I think you should move outside the city limits and have a small farm," Scott said. …

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