Goats in Minneapolis: the new craft beer?

TOM Q. JOHNSON | Updated 12/17/2013

Goat activists hope incoming Minneapolis City Council members will finally allow goats in the City of Lakes.

Activists are fighting for this scene to be a reality in your Minneapolis backyard.
Bruce Bispring

With the changing of the guard in Minneapolis City Council last November, goat activists are renewing efforts to bring the hooved and horned animals into the city limits.

Goats have the power to turn grass and weeds into delicious milk and cheese - how cool! But in 2011, the City Council struck down language in an urban agricultural plan that would have lifted the longstanding ban on raising hooved animals. Chickens and bees are permitted with consent of surrounding residents. But for council members such as Meg Tuthill, goats proved to be a bridge too far.

Now that Tuthill has been voted out, activists like Adam Arling - an organizer for the Minneapolis Alliance for Goats - are picking up the pro-goat banner once again.

“[Goats] always seemed to be kind of a running joke: They’re adorable and practical, wouldn’t it be great to have goats?,” Arling said. “After November 6, it became a real thing. It’s not so crazy. Other cities are doing this and it’s working well.”

Arling got serious about organizing for the change after hearing recently elected City Council member Alondra Cano mention her support for the animals in a debate. He spoke to his friends, contacted community leaders and a month after launching the MAG's Facebook page, his group is sitting pretty at more than 250 likes.

Opponents charge that allowing goats will disrupt the lives of Minneapolitans by blurring the line between farm and city life. There's already enough headbutting, shoe eating and random yelling in the streets of Minneapolis without hooved creatures, they say.

Other major metropolitan areas - such as San Diego, Portland and Seattle - allow for urban goats. In fact, it only takes a short trip across 280 into St. Paul to see what a municipality that allows goats (and horses and pigs) looks like.

Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon was on the pro-goat side of the debate last time the issue was raised, and said he’d support the cause again if it came up. Gordon is a big believer in the urban agriculture movement and believes goats are an important part of developing that ecosystem.

“I think that urban farming has really caught on,” Gordon said. “Even when it wasn’t permitted, people were trying to do it. It’s a way to know your food has been grown in a sustainable and healthy way.”

Heck, goat cheese may even be as big as craft beer in Minneapolis.

“Just like the unique brewery businesses that are starting now, people are imaging locally produced milk or cheese market. I could really see that catching on,” Gordon said.

Here's a rundown of goat laws in Minnesota:

Minneapolis allows chickens with a permit, does not allow goats: “No person shall keep, harbor, or maintain care, custody or control over any horse, cow, sheep, pig, or any other hoofed animal any place in the city.” [74.40]

Fun fact: Kill traps are allowed for rats, mice and moles. Everything else has to be a nonfatal “catch-and-release” kind.

St. Paul allows permitted goats and chickens in the city: “No person shall stable, keep or permit any hoofed animal to remain on any lot or premises within the city without a permit.” [Sec. 198.02. (a)]

Fun fact: Prohibited animals include skunks, raccoons, roosters and red-eared turtles with a shell length less than four inches.

Mankato is a no goats and no chickens city: “It is unlawful for any person to keep any [cattle, horses, mules, sheep, goats, swine, ponies, ducks, geese, turkeys, chickens, guinea hens], not in transit, in any part of the City not zoned for agricultural purposes.” [9.61:2]

Fun fact: Chickens were allowed for two years between 2010-2012, but the temporary exemption was allowed to “sunset.”

Duluth allows chickens for a fee, but no goats (unless in agriculturally zoned areas): “No person shall own, possess or have custody on his or her premises any [hoofed mammal commonly kept for agricultural purpose such as a horse, cow, sheep, pig or llama] for display, training or exhibition purposes, whether gratuitously or for a fee, except as permitted under Chapter 50 of the Duluth City Code” - [Sec. 6-73]

Fun fact: Licensing a dog deemed dangerous requires purchasing “public liability insurance in the minimum of $300,000.”

Rochester allows chickens for a fee, but no goats. Their ordinances don’t reference goats by name, saying instead that “cattle, sheep and horses ... are considered livestock and therefore not permitted in the city due to zoning regulations.” [106A.02: Subd. 2]

Fun fact: Monkeys are allowed as long as they are under 5 pounds.

St. Cloud
allows chickens and goats, but only in specially zoned agricultural districts: “No person shall own, care for, have custody or control of, within the city limits, any [Goats, pigs, poultry, horses, cattle, llama, bison, except as allowed by the City of St. Cloud Land Development Code]” [1040:30: Subd. 1]

Fun fact:
Only two dogs and four cats are allowed per single family dwelling. Furthermore, the sum of cats and dogs together can not exceed four.