As urban homesteading continues its rise, city backyards are booming with agrarian dreams: chickens peck near privacy fences, milk-producing goats bleat greetings to overflying airplanes, and tomato and pea plants stretch toward the smoggy sun. But coupled with these well-intentioned back-to-the-earth efforts is a dark side, says E Magazine‘s Jodi Helmer, as the farm animals we bring to the city get short shrift.
“For many urban agrarians, chickens and goats are the perfect addition to a backyard farm,” Helmer writes, “but when the novelty of having a chirping chick wears off or adorable kids turn into grownup goats that eat the landscaping, the animals are often surrendered to rescue groups or abandoned.”
Animal rescue centers like Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary near Salem, Oregon; the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in upstate New York; and Chicken Run Rescue in Minneapolis, Minnesota–who has experienced a 780 percent increase in rescue requests over the last five years–do their best to care for animals turned out by their owners, but resources are scarce. “Most urban shelters were not designed to house livestock,” Stephen Zawistowski, executive vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals tells Helmer, leaving them vulnerable to euthanasia.
Urban goat ownership will likely increase as cities like Minneapolis aim to overturn ordinances banning goats within city limits, joining towns including Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Charlottesville, Virginia.
Think it would be fun to have a goat in your very own backyard? Before buying, check out rent-a-goat services like City Grazing, profiled in the video below. Even better, call a local shelter to find out if a rescue goat could make your metropolitan farmstead its home.
Margret Aldrich is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter at @mmaldrich.