Saturday, August 9, 2014

Letters to Commissioners Still Needed!

The draft ordinance on legalizing goat was positively received by the Law & Courts Committee in April. They decided to vote on the ordinance in the fall after a new Ingham County Animal Control Director is hired, so that the director could have input on the issue.

It's not too late to write to your commissioner to show your support for keeping dwarf & miniature goats in Ingham County!

Urban Goat Class held by Shannon Branstner and Bob Peña

Bob Peña and his sister Shannon Branstner hosted an urban goat care class at Bob's house on Vine St. in Lansing this morning. They had a good turnout from neighbors and other folks interested in learning about keeping goats in the city.

Bob recently brought home two Dwarf Nigerian goats. He had done his research on care and housing of goats, and had designed a barn for chickens and goats four years ago. He had the goats for a total of 10 days before he had to remove them due to complaints received by the Ingham County Animal Control Board.

Bob's goats were very visible in the neighborhood for the short time they lived on Vine St. They became popular with many of the neighbors. Folks stopped by to see them, pet them, and feed them. Several of the neighborhood kids would also help Bob brush the goats.

Thanks to Shannon and Bob for hosting this class to increase public support for goats! We hope that they will soon be able to legally keep dwarf goats on Vine St.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

We need your support before April 17th!

Ingham Country residents, if you support this issue, please write to your county commissioner today!

Commissioner Todd Tennis will be presenting a revised draft of the urban dairy goat ordinance to the Law & Courts Committee of the Board of County Commissioners on April 17, 2014.

We need your support now! Please email or write your commissioners to let  them know that you support urban dairy goats in Ingham County. Visit our Show Your Support page to find your commissioner and to get help with writing your letter.

Please visit our Facebook group for more information about this issue.

What happended in 2013

The issue of urban dairy goats was back before the Ingham County Animal Control Advisory Board at their meeting on January 29, 2013, which received some local press. Commissioner Todd Tennis decided to prepare a draft ordinance for the March 25th meeting.

The Animal Control Advisory Board recommended Commissioner Tennis' draft ordinance at their meeting on March 25, 2013.

This group met several times between April - December 2013 to discuss revisions to the draft ordinance, including minimum space for goats, how to manage waste, requiring at least two goats, and exempting goats under 12 weeks of age from minimum numbers of goats allowed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Attention all Urban Agriculture Supporters!

I've contacted the Ingham County Animal Control Advisory Board and we have been put on the agenda for the upcoming November meeting to continue the discussion of legalizing miniature dairy goats in urban areas of Ingham County.

The meeting will take place Monday November 26th at 6:30pm in the Health Department Building (the southeast corner of Jolly and Cedar in south Lansing). If you plan to attend, you will need to sign in with the guard on the first floor and they will direct you to the correct meeting room.

See you there!

P.S. We also have a Facebook group, so feel free to invite your friends!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Original Proposal

Proposal to Amend the Animal Control Ordinance to Allow for
Urban Dairy Goats in Ingham County

Informational Packet
for the
Ingham County Animal Control Shelter Advisory Board

November 28, 2011



About Miniature Dairy Goats
Why Would Anyone Want a Goat?
Common Concerns and Misconceptions about Goats
Requirements and Suggested Regulations for Urban Goat Keeping
Examples of Other Cities with Urban Goat Ordinances
Charlottesville, VA
Denver, CO
Seattle, WA

Amendment Proposal


As a strong supporter of the local food and urban agriculture movements, I'd like to propose the legalization of miniature dairy goats on residential-zoned land in Ingham County. Miniature goats take up very little space, are gentle and intelligent, and produce wholesome milk, making them an excellent addition to any urban garden or homestead. In the following document, I hope to explain why Ingham residents would want to keep dairy goats, dispel the common anti-goat arguments, discuss the requirements for keeping goats, and suggest regulations for inclusion in the Ingham County Animal Control Ordinance (should a goat exception be added).

About Miniature Dairy Goats:

Why Would Anyone Want a Goat?

  • Goats are one of the earliest domesticated animals
About 10,000-11,000 years ago, Neolithic farmers began keeping small herds of goats for their milk and meat. In addition, goat dung was used for fuel, while hair, bone, skin, and sinew were used for clothes making and building materials.

  • Goats are common household animals around the world
Although it is not common amongst Americans, many cultures around the world keep goats. In fact, more people worldwide drink goat milk than any other type of milk!

  • Goats can play an integral role in urban sustainability and local food production
Legalizing urban dairy goats will help support the growing urban agriculture and local food movements in Ingham County. It is clear that local food production has become important to Ingham County residents because many new farmer's markets and community gardens have popped up in the last few years. The Michigan Farmer's Market Association lists at least 12 farmer's markets in Ingham County. In addition, the Garden Project (a program of the Greater Lansing Food Bank) lists approximately 85 community gardens spread through out the county!

  • Goats provide inexpensive, fresh, and unadulterated milk
Keeping backyard goats is a great way of producing milk and other dairy products in an economical, ethical, and eco-friendly way. Most Ingham County residents have few options when it comes to purchasing milk. We are basically forced to buy factory-farmed milk at the grocery store. This factory-farmed milk generally has hormones, antibiotics, and other potentially harmful and unnecessary additives. The living conditions on factory farms are often cited for being unethical, inhumane, and unsanitary. Therefore, the keeping of a small backyard herd of dairy goats is a logical solution for consumers who care about where and how their food is produced.

  • Goats make great pets
Goats are considered excellent pets due to their good-natured personalities, friendliness, faithfulness, and hardy constitution.

  • Goats are similar in size and temperament as dogs
Miniature goats are no bigger than a number large dog breeds (e.g., Golden or Labrador Retriever, Boxer, German Shepherd, etc.) averaging around 24" tall and 50 to 80 pounds. Goats are gentle animals and have much less potential to harm humans than dogs.

  • Goats are great at clearing brush and undergrowth
Goats will readily consume invasive and noxious weeds and shrubs. They can be used as an eco-friendly alternative to chemical herbicides and gas-powered brush-clearing equipment.

  • Goat droppings do not smell and make great compost
Goat droppings are very dry and do not smell. Unlike dog or cat feces, goat droppings are safe to compost. Therefore, goats don't add to the municipal garbage stream as do most household pets. In addition, goat droppings are full of plant material and make a great soil amendment for the garden.

Common Concerns and Misconceptions about Goats

  • Goats are smelly
Un-castrated goats are well known for being smelly, therefore they are not appropriate for the urban setting. However, female goats, baby goats, and castrated male goats are not smelly. In addition, goat droppings are very dry and do not smell, unlike dog and cat feces.

  • Goats are noisy
Most goats are no louder than neighborhood dogs or children.

  • Goats carry and transmit disease
Goats have no more potential to negatively impact human health than dogs and cats. Serious illnesses in people due to infections from goats are rare and disease risk can be reduced through proper sanitation and good husbandry. Dogs and cats can also transmit pests and disease to humans (e.g. rabies, toxoplasmosis, salmonella, cat scratch fever, lyme disease, fleas, worms, etc.), but for all animals, proper care and common sense go a long way towards preventing disease.

  • Goats are escape artists
Goats are very curious and nimble, making them capable of escaping when improper and/or insufficient fencing is used. For example, poultry netting (a.k.a. chicken wire) is fairly flexible and lacks the strength required to safely contain goats. Therefore, strong and resilient fencing intended for livestock, chain-link fencing, or solid wood fencing should be used.

  • Goats are dangerous
Goats are common fixtures at children's petting zoos because they are such docile and friendly animals. They pose very little threat to children, certainly no more than a dog or cat. As with any animal, young children should be supervised when interacting with goats (more for the goat's safety than the child's). To prevent accidental bumps and bruises, goats can be dehorned or disbudded if desired.

Requirements and Suggested Regulations for Urban Goat Keeping

  • Number of Goats
Goats are social animals and will suffer if kept singly. Therefore, at least two goats should be kept together at all times. Other cities with urban goat ordinances (see below) generally limit the total number of animals to three goats over the age of twelve weeks per property. However, some of the cities set the limit on goat number according to the size of the property (e.g., one goat per 5,000 square feet).
Since dairy goats must be bred in order to produce milk, nursing offspring will need to be kept on the property until the age of twelve (12) weeks and therefore, should not be included in the total number of goats allowed. By the time they reach twelve weeks old, the offspring can be sold or retained by the owner (as long as the owner remains within the maximum number allowed).

  • Size and Breed of Goats
There are several breeds and cross-breeds of dairy goats that weigh between 50 to 80 pounds and are appropriate for urban areas. Within this weight range include the African Pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf breeds, as well as miniature dairy goat cross-breeds, which are the product of crossing a full-sized dairy breed with a Nigerian Dwarf. Full-sized dairy breeds may also be appropriate for urban areas, but can weigh up to 135 pounds. Furthermore, many other cities with urban goat ordinances (see below) permit only pygmy, dwarf, or miniature goats.

  • Shelter and Enclosure size
According to the Denver, CO miniature goat ordinance (see below), at least 130 square feet of land space should be available for each miniature goat as well as adequate shelter space for each goat. This figure can be referenced in any number of publications on the keeping of goats (see references section).

  • Fencing
Goats must be kept in an enclosure that is constructed and maintained in a manner to keep the goats confined. Fencing should be sturdy enough to prevent the goats from pushing it over and at least 4 feet high to prevent jumping. Fencing intended for livestock, chain-link fencing, or solid wood fencing should be used.

  • Neutering
Due to their unpleasant odor, un-castrated male goats should not be kept in an urban setting. Therefore, all male goats brought into the city should be neutered and all male offspring should be neutered during their first couple weeks.

  • Disbudding/Dehorning
Disbudding/dehorning is a common topic of debate among goat owners. Disbudding involves using a very hot iron to burn the horn buds off the skull of a baby goat (often less than a week old). Dehorning is the process of cutting off horns that have already grown to significant size. Both processes can be a dangerous, even life-threatening, medical procedures that can cause tetanus, brain damage, infection, or death from shock. Many goat owners consider the practice of disbudding/dehorning inhumane and unnecessary.
So why would a goat owner want to disbud their goat? First, if a goat is to be shown in a competition, or if they are to be a project for 4-H, it must be disbudded/dehorned to qualify. Second, while goats are docile animals, their horns could cause accidental bumps or bruises. Disbudding may be especially important if small children will be interacting with the goat on a regular basis.
Obviously there are good arguments both for and against disbudding/dehorning. The goat owner should take their individual situation into consideration before deciding to keep goats with horns or without horns. If an urban goat ordinance is added in Ingham County, I would suggest that disbudding/dehorning is neither required nor prohibited, but rather left to the discretion of the owner.

If you would like to view a video of the disbudding process, the following video is available on Please be warned that this video may be disturbing to some individuals.
  • Breeding
In order to produce milk, a dairy animal must first become pregnant and give birth. Therefore, in order to produce milk, female goats must be bred regularly. Since keeping un-castrated male goats in the city would be inappropriate, urban goat owners will need to by take their females to a breeder who provides breeding services.
After a 5-month gestation period, the mother goat will give birth to 1 to 4 offspring. Soon after giving birth, the mother goat can begin sharing her milk with the goat owner. The offspring can be weaned around 8 to 12 weeks old and then sold (or kept by the owner). The mother goat can be milked for up to 10 months each time she is bred. However, she should be given a 2-month resting period where she is not milked before giving birth again.

Examples of Other Cities with Urban Goat Ordinances:

Urban dairy goats are legal in many cities throughout the United States. In the following pages, I have given three examples of cities with goat ordinances. I have included screen-capture images of each city’s municipal code, highlighting the sections pertaining to the keeping of goats in urban areas. If you would like to examine these municipal codes in closer detail, they are all available on the internet (web addresses are shown at the top of each page).

Charlottesville, Virginia

Denver, Colorado

Seattle, Washington

Amendment Proposal:



An Ordinance to amend the Ingham County Animal Control Ordinance to permit the keeping of miniature goats in non-agricultural areas of the County.

            Section 2.  Amendment.  Article VIII of the Ingham County Animal Control Ordinance, entitled Prohibition of Livestock or Poultry in Non-Agricultural Areas, is amended to read as follows:
(a)        No livestock or poultry shall be owned, kept, possessed, harbored or kept charge of within the boundaries or any non-agricultural area within Ingham County except as such places are provided for shipping said livestock or poultry.

(b)        ** Section (b), which discusses the keeping of chickens on non-agricultural land has been omitted.

(c)        Notwithstanding paragraph (a), and unless expressly prohibited or regulated by a city, village or township ordinance, or private property restriction, miniature goats may be owned, kept, possessed, harbored, and kept charge of within the boundaries of any non-agricultural area within Ingham County, under the following conditions:

            (i)         No more than three (3) miniature (not more than 100 pounds) goats may be kept at the same time on any one- or two-family residential property, except that nursing offspring may be kept on the property until the age of twelve (12) weeks, and shall not be included in the number of goats allowed;

(ii) All male goats must be neutered;

(iii) Goats must be kept in an enclosure so constructed or repaired as to keep the goats confined on the owner’s property;

(iv) There must be at least one hundred and thirty (130) square feet of land space for each miniature goat as well as adequate shelter space for each goat.

(v)       All feed and other items associated with the keeping of goats that are likely to attract or to become infested with or infected by rats, mice, or other rodents, shall be protected so as to prevent rats, mice, or other rodents from gaining access to or coming into contract with them.


Belanger, Jerry, and Sara Thomson Bredesen. Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing. 2010. Print.

Damerow, Gail. The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing. 2011. Print.

Fox, Thomas. Urban Farming: Sustainable City Living in Your Backyard, in Your Community, and in the World. Irvine, CA: Bowtie Press. 2011. Print.

Gehring, Abigail. The Homesteading Handbook. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. 2011. Print.

Jaudas, Ulrich, and Seyedmehdi Mobini. The Goat Handbook. Hauppauge, New York: Barron's Publishing. 1987. Print.

Kaplan, Rachel. Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills of Sustainable Living. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. 2011. Print.

Weaver, Sue. The Backyard Goat: An Introductory Guide to keeping Productive Pet Goats. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing. 2011. Print.

The Garden Project Program of the Greater Lansing Foodbank:

Michigan Farmer's Market Association :

To grow your own food gives you a sort of power and it gives you dignity. You know exactly what you’re eating because you grew it. It’s good, it’s nourishing and you did this for yourself, your family and your community.”
-Karen Washington, food justice activist and president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition

Making Our Voice Heard

In just a few minutes I will be posting the original proposal, presented almost a year ago, to legalize urban dairy goats in Ingham County, Michigan.

If you are interested in this issue, please consider reading the proposal and writing to your county commissioner before the next Animal Control Advisory Board meeting (end of November). If you want to, feel free to write to multiple people! Explain why this issue is important to you and how you and your community will benefit from legalizing dairy goats. If you were positively affected by the recent urban chicken legalization (circa 2008 or 2009), please mention that too. Urban agriculture in Ingham County (Lansing in particular) has gotten a lot of attention and support in the last few years. Let's show our governmental bodies what the next step is!

You can determine the county commissioner for your district by going to:

If you prefer to email your commissioner, you can find their email address on this page (click on the district # next to their name to be taken to a separate page with their email address):

If you prefer to mail your commissioner a letter, address your envelope to:

Your Commissioners Name HERE 
Ingham County Courthouse
P.O. Box 319
Mason, MI  48854    

P.S. If you write a letter, please let me know, so I have a rough idea of how many letters have been sent out.