Defending Your Right to Goat

Why this local activist formed the Goat Justice League to help legalize urban goat ownership.
Urban goat advocate Jennie Grant with Snowflake, one of her two backyard goats

“They like to nuzzle.” “They are more dog-like than cat-like.” “They eat anything made of plant material.” “They are superspeedy compost machines.” Jennie Grant, 47, is talking about dairy goats, a species she has welcomed into her Madrona backyard since 2006.

The Marin County native and stay-at-home mother says she has always been an “animal person,” but didn’t consider keeping goats until tasting goat’s milk in a friend’s California backyard. After realizing fresh goat’s milk is much better than what’s available in grocery stores, Grant decided to welcome two animals of her own (she recommends a yard that’s at least 400 square feet).

“It was a combination of having a good place to keep goats, wanting a pet that produced something and wanting their milk,” she says. In 2006, she formed the Goat Justice League, a loose coalition of goat supporters (superhero status not required) that, in 2007, convinced the Seattle City Council to legalize the keeping of mini-goats in the city. Grant’s new book, City Goats: The Goat Justice League’s Guide to Backyard Goat Keeping, includes tips on getting goats legalized in your community; how to acquire, train and milk goats; and funny personal stories about life with her goats, Snowflake and Eloise. While goat keeping takes a lot of work, Grant says having the animals has “broadened my world, enriched my life and my soil.”

What You Need to Know:

1/ Grant says that when selecting a goat, “Don’t go by looks.” A quiet goat with “a nice udder, big teats and long lactation” trumps cuteness.

2/ In order to produce milk, a goat has to breed—so goat keepers with limited space need a plan for placing offspring elsewhere.

3/ Goats hate rain and must have a shed for shelter.

4/ It’s illegal to own an unneutered male goat in Seattle, in large part because of the “incredibly smelly” odor. Also, Grant says, “They try to mate with everything.”

5/ Get urban goat updates at goatjusticeleague.org.

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