I arrived home, some weeks ago, to a goat’s bleating. I made it home almost crawling – six day a week field work for three weeks, each day with four focused group discussions of five to forty persons each at two hours per, and I was the facilitator – but although my brain was near collapse, the sharp bleating, a couple of hours after midnight, registered. For a moment, I felt disoriented and panicked – was I again in a wrong address? I wasn’t. The goat was new in my neighborhood. But are goats supposed to be bleating at 2 AM – or maybe it was just announcing itself? As usual when I arrived at the dead of the night, I head straight from door to bed. My bedroom window was directly toward where the goat was – at least that was how I got the placement by the bleating – and if I wasn’t that dead beat then I wouldn’t have been able to go to sleep. I heard the animal a couple of days more and that’s it – I concluded that it was kept – probably fattened up a bit – for some celebrant’s dining table.
In some zones, it’s “strictly, no pets”. And in a few, “no children, please”. So if you don’t take to animals or prefer monasterial silence, you’d want to be in certain neighborhoods or buildings, that is, if such regulations are made known to you, the buyer or renter.
But what, in zoning regulations, is a pet? For sure, it’s traditional definition doesn’t include barn animals, such as a goat. But in February 2012 in Cecil County, Maryland
Craig Balunsat is 47 years old, and, Lisa, his wife of eight years, is 49… decision to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a goat… stemmed from the couple’s interest in Native American spirituality. By opening their home to a goat, they figured they’d be closer to nature, maybe even to God… Cecil County officials mainly hear a zoning violation… one day…when an inspector knocked on their door and shortly thereafter a letter on county letterhead arrived in the mail. It said the goat, along with the family’s six hens and two ducks, had to go. Or else… After a winter of orders, ultimatums, hearings, petitions and tears, Craig Balunsat sued the county in federal court this month, saying he’s not only constitutionally entitled to Snowbird, but by considering the animal differently than a dog or a cat, the county was discriminating against goat kind… the family collected about 200 signatures supporting their cause. But in the end, none of that held sway with the appeals board… The family’s insistence that Snowbird was a pet, not an instrument of animal husbandry, didn’t matter either. What mattered was that in Cecil County, since the law was written in 1979, anyone wishing to engage in animal husbandry, even in rural areas, must own at least one acre of land. The Balunsats’ corner lot missed that mark by four-tenths of an acre. So, Houston says, they’re out of luck and out of a goat… Commissioner Robert Hodge sits on the Cecil County’s five-member governing board, a decision-maker who happens to live on an 84-acre farm where he keeps an array of animals, everything from dogs and cats to cows, horses, goats and even zebras. He says he feels for the Balunsats (“I really do”) but also says, pointedly, “I chose to live on a large parcel out in the middle of no place because I wanted to get away from everybody and not have these issues.” He’s intrigued by the idea of a return to urban farming, but wonders aloud where one would draw the line. At goats? At pigs? At cows? “If every other lot had a goat,” he says. “Where would we be?” He is, however, willing to entertain that question and suggests — as bluntly as he can — that someone in the Balunsat family would be smart to show up at Tuesday night’s commission meeting where there will be an open mike and, you know, a forum where someone could ask the commissioners to consider adjusting the law… For now, Snowbird remains at home with the Balunsats…
By the way, Craig Balunsat is of Filipino stock.
The Balunsats case presents a very interesting study of zoning regulation dilemmas. And relates very well to local zoning measures in the Philippines.
In Baguio City, for instance, classified as a Highly Urbanized City, having a population density of 5,542/sq.km. in 2010, there are barangays or villages where families operate pig pens (the farm animals not as pets or for family consumption, but for commercial sale) in their yards and without systems in place to control or manage pollution and waste – their neighbors do complain but in hushed tones and never to the pig pen-operating families or to the village council. This is more of not knowing the law for all parties involved – the pig pen-operating family, the village officials, and affected neighbors. Hence you have non-implementation by village officials and “maximum tolerance” by village residents.
Anyway let’s have what the HLURB has to say in its Resolution No. 674
Proposed backyard poultry and piggery projects must secure a locational clearance (i.e. for rural areas) and shall not be allowed in urban areas.
Proposed medium and large scale poultry/piggery projects shall not be allowed in urban areas.