published Friday, October 12th, 2012

East Ridge shoos goat; owner plans to move

Samantha Viar holds a handful of oatmeal for her goat, Oreo.
Samantha Viar holds a handful of oatmeal for her goat, Oreo.
Photo by Tim Barber.

East Ridge City Council members voted Thursday that Oreo the pygmy goat can't stay in the city — so owner Jeffery Viar said he'll move his family to Georgia.

After weeks of limbo, City Council members voted 3-1 against an ordinance that would have allowed Oreo to stay within the city limits.

"I'm disappointed," Viar said. "I've lived in the city of East Ridge for 10 years, but we've been looking for a house for six or seven weeks now. If they can't take my children into consideration, I'll just go to an area where they will."

The ordinance was voted down without any discussion. Mayor Brent Lambert was the dissenting vote and Vice Mayor Larry Sewell was absent.

Viar found out in August that his family's pet is prohibited in the city under current city ordinance. The council twice tabled a vote on a new ordinance that would have carved out an exception for pygmy goats and potbelly pigs.

East Ridge Animal Control Supervising Officer Jonathan Cooper repeatedly urged the council to pass the exception, arguing that animals like 40-pound Oreo are not much different from medium-sized dogs.

"I'm disappointed by their decision to disallow companion animals like Oreo," Cooper said. "I don't see that they are a nuisance beyond any other pet animals -- I don't see any reason to prohibit these kind of animals."

Still, Cooper said he will now send Viar a letter to inform him that he needs to get rid of Oreo.

Viar said Oreo is just like any other family pet -- his children just wanted a goat instead of a dog.

"I can't understand why my next door neighbor can have a pitbull that could get loose and bite somebody -- if my goat gets loose, he's not going to harm anybody," he said.

In previous city council meetings, council members argued that changing the city code to allow pygmy goats and potbelly pigs could cause problems if the animals were smelly or noisy.

Council member Jim Bethune said the issue has been considered on similar cases in the past and the ordinance was not changed.

"How do I go back to those people and explain why they had to let Snowflake go, but these people get to keep Oreo?" he said during the Sept. 13 council meeting.

Viar said he hopes to move to a new house just across the Georgia border so that he can stay close to his mother and brother, who live in East Ridge.

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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