Pismo Beach agrees to reconsider its ban on goats

Dana McGregor loads his three goats — Goatee, Pismo and Grover — into the back of his car for a quick trip to a field near his house where they can wander and eat some weeds.
Dana McGregor loads his three goats — Goatee, Pismo and Grover — into the back of his car for a quick trip to a field near his house where they can wander and eat some weeds. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Dana McGregor’s surfing goats might remain a permanent fixture in Pismo Beach, as city officials decided this week to reconsider rules prohibiting the animals.

The Pismo Beach City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to have staff return with an ordinance to allow goats to be kept and raised in city limits, and to allow them in public parks.

“Horses and cows are permitted in Pismo Beach, so why not goats?” Matt Janowicz, an attorney for McGregor, asked the council. “It’s not a situation of goats gone wild surfing in Pismo. We’re providing people an opportunity to have pets and get an enjoyment out of animals that aren’t a detriment to the city.”

Councilwoman Mary Ann Reiss dissented, stating several times during the meeting, “I just don’t understand why we’re doing this.”

She questioned why the city was responding to a request from one local resident, and asked staff why it hadn’t recommended a minimum lot size for keeping goats. Current city regulations allow cattle, horses and sheep on lots that are one acre or larger.

“We’re a beach community, and we have really small lots,” Reiss said.

Community Development Director Jon Biggs said there are a number of different breeds of goats requiring a range of space and he wasn’t ready to propose a minimum lot size.

The majority of the council agreed with Biggs’ recommendation to change city rules to allow no more than four goats to be kept or raised on private property with the approval of a permit.

McGregor, owner of Goatee, Grover and Pismo, thanked the council for considering his request and mentioned the joy that his goats have brought to children through surfing and older adults through visits to local retirement homes. (His videos of goats surfing on http://surfinggoats.com have drawn thousands of views.)

“Everyone connects with animals,” he said. “I do it in a very friendly and loving way that I don’t think anyone would be offended by.”

McGregor asked the council to reconsider its regulations after receiving several tickets for letting his goats graze in the city.

The hearing occasionally drew a few chuckles — it’s not every day that the Pismo council discusses the wide variety of goat breeds, the space needed to raise them, or whether they might bother any neighbors.

“As a neighbor I haven’t experienced any ill effects of the goats,” said Councilman Kris Vardas. “It’s kind of neat; sometimes you’re sitting on your deck and you can kinda hear the goat doing it’s call, whatever it is — bleating?”

“Can you do that for us?” Mayor Shelly Higginbotham asked.

“No,” Vardas said, laughing.

And some staff members tried to stifle giggles when local resident Marilee Hyman talked about a positive experience she had watching a neighbor’s goat: “I couldn’t bring myself to milk it, though.”

She added, “But that goat was far less threatening than a lot of dogs walking around.”

The council also will consider allowing goats in public parks, subject to keeping them on a leash. Goats are currently not allowed in public parks, but they are not included among the list of animals prohibited from the beach.

The proposed changes would require goats to be kept at least 25 feet from any open water drainage system, according to a staff report. No permit would be issued if another permit was already in effect within 200 feet of a property boundary.

Approval would be granted for a one-year trial permit, which would be reviewed to determine whether the permit can continue, be further conditioned or revoked. The permit fee could range from $300 to $350.

The short-term use of goats for weed abatement does not require permit approval and would not be subject to the same conditions.

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