published Friday, November 9th, 2012

East Ridge says no to goat

Jeffery Viar waits for the East Ridge City Council's decision regarding whether or not his family can keep Oreo, their pygmy goat.
Jeffery Viar waits for the East Ridge City Council's decision regarding whether or not his family can keep Oreo, their pygmy goat.
Photo by Alyson Wright /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Oreo is out. And so is owner Jeffery Viar.

The East Ridge City Council took no action on a proposed ordinance that would have carved out an exception in city code to let Oreo, a pygmy goat, stay within the city limits.

"It's sad," Viar said. "I have to go home and explain to my kids that we can't keep our family pet."

A lifelong resident of East Ridge, Viar said he thinks he'll move his family outside of the city -- perhaps into Georgia -- so they can keep Oreo.

Oreo's saga began in late August, when Viar found out his family's pet was prohibited within the East Ridge city limits.

He'd had 40-pound Oreo for over a year and didn't want to tell his elementary-age kids they'd have to give him the boot, so he asked the council to let Oreo stay.

After the council voted down an ordinance that would have allowed residents to keep eligible pygmy goats and potbellied pigs as pets in October, Viar collected more than 100 signatures asking them to reconsider.

Thursday, the council could have voted to set up a one-time waiver period during which owners could have registered "nonconforming companion animals" like Oreo for a $50 fee and kept them as pets.

City Attorney John Anderson said the waiver was in line with the spirit of the original city code, which was not aimed at companion animals.

"It was designed to prevent livestock animals in East Ridge," he said. "People have unwittingly acquired companion animals that are culturally acceptable but actually against city code."

But City Council members disagreed. Council member Denny Manning said he didn't think the exception was fair.

"The catch to the whole thing is it is not fair to have one goat in our city and try to grandfather it in and cut everybody else off," he said.

Mayor Brent Lambert urged council members to pass the exception and said other large cities allow residents to keep pygmy goats as pets.

When the council did not take any action on the proposal, Viar walked out of the meeting. He's not sure how to tell his kids Oreo will have to go.

"I really don't know," he said. "I just don't know."

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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