Defending Your Right to Goat

Why this local activist formed the Goat Justice League to help legalize urban goat ownership.
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“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.