Ousted goats allowed to head back home

Raj Sinha, 6, regularly feeds and pets the goats.

Morgan Hill
– Frank Dutra’s goats are coming home.
It wasn’t unanimous, but the Morgan Hill City Council voted 3-1
to change a city ordinance that forced five neighborhood goats out
of town.
Morgan Hill – Frank Dutra’s goats are coming home.

It wasn’t unanimous, but the Morgan Hill City Council voted 3-1 to change a city ordinance that forced five neighborhood goats out of town.

The changes will allow more livestock (two per nine-tenths of an acre) on property in the city.

“My goats can come home,” said Dutra after the vote.

He said he was pleased with the council’s action and would bring the animals back as soon as possible.

Councilman Larry Carr dissented and Councilman Steve Tate was out of town. Carr said his vote wasn’t against goats, but he thought there was another way to solve Dutra’s problem.

“The permitting process should be flexible enough,” Carr said. “I’d rather look at individual circumstances. We’re better off keeping what we have today.”

The previous ordinance required those wishing to keep more animals than allowed to apply for a variance and pay a fee of several thousand dollars.

Carr said he would be willing to waive the large fee required of a resident seeking such a variance. The city has yet to establish a fee schedule, but staff estimated the price would be $2,000 or more.

“I’m willing to have him apply for a fee and then waive the fee,” Carr said.

In the 30 years since the ordinance was first enacted, no one has asked for a variance, he said, possibly because it would be too costly.

Dutra said in August that officially filing for a variance would be too expensive.

The goats had lived on the seven acres he leases on Diana Avenue between Butterfield Boulevard and U.S. Highway 101 for six years, long after the land was annexed into the city in the 1980s, so they have always been illegally kept on the land. The original animal ordinance was passed in the 1960s. But the neighborhood has recently changed with houses replacing more and more once-rural land. Still, most neighbors enjoyed the animals, with mothers making daily trips with children in strollers to visit them and older children bringing carrots, flowers and other food, staying to pet the friendly animals.

Until a neighbor complained that the goats, two horses and a mule were rubbing up against a neighborhood fence and causing damage, the city did not insist on compliance. Dutra sent the goats to live with friends in the Sacramento Delta, at significant expense, he said. The mule and horses did not belong to him and won’t be returning.

Dutra said he would likely build a second fence properly setback from the neighbor’s fence.

While no one has ever complained about noise, smell or flies from the goats, Acting City Attorney Daniel K. Siegel said those would come under health and safety concerns and not handled under this new zoning ordinance. Dutra said his land and the goats are always clean.

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