Pet goat saga ends as city council denies code revision

Lily is one of Ava Anissipour
Lily is one of Ava Anissipour's pet pygmy goats.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

The Federal Way City Council denied a girl's effort to change city code so that she could keep a pygmy goat as her household pet.

By a vote of 6-1, and at the recommendation of Mayor Skip Priest, the council declined a motion for the city's planning commission to pursue the code revision.

Ava Anissipour, 12, first made headlines back in July when her family received a citation from the city's animal services unit. The Anissipour family's two pygmy goats generated complaints from neighbors over the odor and noise.

One of the goats was designated as a service animal and allowed to stay on the family's property. However, city code classifies goats as large domestic animals that require a minimum property size of 70,000 square feet, which is a little less than 2 acres.

As a result of the code violation, the second goat had to go.

The Anissipour family lives in the Brittany Lane neighborhood, near Wild Waves Theme Park, on a property that measures 6,000 square feet.

On multiple occasions, Ava Anissipour has addressed city leaders as to why Federal Way should allow both of her goats to stay under one roof. One reason is that pygmy goats are herd animals who need to live in pairs. Anissipour and her supporters also argue that the goats behave better — and smell better — than most dogs.

However, at least two neighbors disagreed, and argued at Tuesday's council meeting to leave the city code unchanged.

In the end, the council praised Anissipour for her diligence, but empathized with the private property rights of neighbors. Several city council members visited Anissipour's home and neighboring homes, and agreed that the smell of animal feces was strong.

"The neighbors have a right to enjoy their homes that they have bought and paid for... and not smell that terrible and offensive odor," said Councilmember Dini Duclos, explaining why she was voting to uphold the current city code.

At Tuesday's council meeting, planning manager Isaac Conlen presented research on possible health risks, noise and odor nuisances, and extra burdens to city services if the code were changed. Conlen said the city compared goat ordinances in 11 different communities and weighed factors such as lot sizes, which averaged 17,000 square feet.

The lone dissenting council vote was Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell, who said he didn't find the odor overwhelming when visiting Anissipour's home. He said the odor was a matter of perspective, and that the notion of revising city code was worth a discussion.

"The manner in which we've approached this is thoughtful," Ferrell said. "I don't think a conversation for the planning commission would be that overly burdensome."


• Goats are allowed as pets in some cities, including Seattle. In 2007, the Seattle City Council voted to reclassify pygmy goats as small animals rather than farm animals. In Seattle, goats require pet licenses just like cats and dogs. The goats must be dehorned, and male goats must be neutered.

• Goats are classified as large domestic animals in Federal Way. Other animals in this classification include horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and "other grazing or foraging animals." According to Federal Way Revised Code 19.260.070, large domestic animals require a minimum property size of 70,000 square feet. City code also imposes a limit of two large domestic animals for this size of a lot.


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