IF YOU GO
* WHAT: East Ridge City Council meeting
* WHERE: 1517 Tombras Ave., East Ridge
* WHEN: 6:30 p.m. tonight
When Oreo eats all the leaves he can reach on the bush in Jeffery Viar's yard — up to about 3 feet off the ground — he tramps across the lawn, nudges a large plastic toy back to the bush, stands on top of it and keeps eating.
"He's like a big kid," Viar said. "He's really smart."
The East Ridge City Council recently voted that Oreo, a mostly-white pigmy goat with two black splotches around his ears, can't stay with the Viars. Goats and other livestock aren't allowed within the city limits, and the City Council voted down a proposed exception 3-1 at the last meeting on Oct. 11.
But the Viar family isn't giving up without a fight.
They took to the streets and asked neighbors, friends and East Ridge citizens to sign a petition asking the council to allow Oreo to keep living in the city limits.
Their 8-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son went from house-to-house in their Springvale Road neighborhood.
"Her daughter went up to the doors -- the boy's a little shy so he didn't," Viar said. "She did, and just asked them to sign a petition for Oreo."
One person said no.
So far, the family has collected about 70 signatures, and plans to present the petition at tonight's regular City Council meeting.
"Hopefully it will change their minds and they'll let him stay," Samantha Viar said.
Oreo mostly eats grass and raw oatmeal, but he also loves Moonpies and Cheerios. The Viars adopted him when he was a kid, about 12 inches tall and only 10 pounds. He's grown to about 40 pounds now, but he still hops, stomps and flips around the yard to play with Viar's children.
Next-door neighbor Ashland Behling said she sometimes hears Oreo bleating, but he's not quite as loud as a dog. She said she hopes he can stay in the neighborhood.
"He's more environmentally-friendly than a dog, even," she said. "My dogs -- all they do is run around and poop out there. He trims the grass. He doesn't bother anybody."
Across the street neighbor Betty Dill said she tries not to let Oreo bother her, but he does make a lot of noise. She thinks the Viars should follow city code and give Oreo the boot.
"I heard they had people in the country who could take the goat and turn it loose," she said. "If that's the case, I don't understand why they don't do that. I mean, you can see that the yard is not that big, and an animal like that needs room to roam."
Jeffery Viar said he's afraid of putting Oreo on a farm with other goats because Oreo has never interacted with other animals and might not know how to act around fellow goats.
Oreo's fate hung in the balance for weeks while the City Council debated whether to pass the proposed exception, which would have allowed pigmy goats and potbelly pigs within the city limits. Some council members worried that the animals would smell or cause noise problems, and others thought passing the exception would open the flood gates and many East Ridge citizens would start keeping goats or pigs in the city limit.
The Viars live in a rented house less than a half-mile from Georgia. Jeffery Viar was planning to buy it, but now the family is considering relocating across the border so that they can keep Oreo.
Neighbor Sharon Fletcher said she understands why the Viars are fighting the City Council's decision.
"If my kids had a goat or whatever in the backyard and they wanted to keep it, I'd fight tooth and nail to keep it too," she said. "I don't blame them. There are a whole lot more things the council needs to be fighting and worrying about than a darn goat. Leave the kids and the goat alone."
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 ...