If Arlington residents Bryant Nichols and Matt Haggerty get their way, their county will take on a distinctly rural character where keeping livestock is permitted as long as someone can plausibly claim that they’re keeping their animals as pets. According to the Sun Gazette, these two bought a pair of goats, which do helpful things like crop the grass in their yard, provide fertilizer, and create some amusing spectacles such as the time they escaped and ran down to the corner of Lee Highway and George Mason to the surprise of residents who aren’t accustomed to such things. Now having been told that they’re in violation of local zoning ordinances, they’re mounting a fight to have the rules that prohibit their “pets” changed.
There’s another urban area where livestock as “pets” are permitted, under some conditions. South-Central Los Angeles has become a hotspot of local residents keeping livestock on their urban properties, which has allowed some residents to partially replicate the character of their previous hometowns, giving this once largely African-American community a distinctly international and diverse flavor.
“Sometimes, I think it’s Mexico,” said Tony Johnson, who lives in Southeast L.A. He confessed that after being roused early some mornings, he has fantasized about silencing the birds permanently. “Boom. Boom. Boom,” he said, pantomiming how he would do it.
But a few blocks away, Jose Luiz, 43, seemed surprised that anyone would be bothered by the noise.
“It’s natural to have roosters,” he said as he surveyed a new community garden where corn, squash and tomatoes were growing. “I’m Mexican. We are accustomed to hearing them.”
Not surprisingly, there’s some degree of controversy about the benefits of allowing residents to keep livestock in urban or semi-urban areas. Some may appreciate the opportunity to see and hear various animals in their neighborhood, but it can cause a few problems, and enforcing whatever requirements for setbacks and enclosures can be a complicated and time consuming effort for local zoning authorities and animal control officers. Enforcing the occupancy limitations on single-family residences is a difficult job that local governments have struggled with, and enforcing restrictions on urban animal husbandry is doubtless a similarly daunting task. For Los Angeles, this has resulted in a few problems:
In South Los Angeles, on the other hand, the crowing — and bleating, quacking, honking, oinking and neighing — has been a growing source of irritation, with callers lighting up city phone lines demanding that officials do something.
An 11-year-old boy was chased home from school by a rooster, according to his mother, who did not want his name published.
Around the same time, on the same street, some roosters mysteriously disappeared out of a backyard, according to resident Dwight Johnson, who said the birds’ owner walked up and down the street looking for them.
Animal Services Officer Jose Gonzalez, who patrols the southern part of the city, said he’s getting around five calls a week about rooster noise. He’s also had reports about a pig running down Central Avenue and a man who kept goats in his backyard and posted signs advertising slaughterhouse services.
Boks said Animal Services deals with about 150 reports of unauthorized slaughtering a year.
Arlington now has an opportunity to cement environemental activists who prefer goats to lawnmowers, and perhaps newer residents who miss the familiar sights, sounds and smells of earlier days when they strolled the streets of a Central American nation along with the local livestock. It’s a political marriage that will probably be warmly welcomed by Arlington County Chairman Walter Tejada, and an opportunity to introduce even more diversity that would be hard for him to pass up. There may be some local residents that won’t be too thrilled about the concept of borrowing ideas from South-Central Los Angeles and employing them in Arlington. Whether they’ll be heard or not, we’ll have to see.
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