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Will County may force girl to give up miniature goat

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Updated: April 17, 2012 7:14PM



JACKSON TOWNSHIP — The Pirc family of Noel Estates have a big decision to chew on in the next few weeks.

They can either seek a change in their zoning, or they can obey a Will Land Use Department edict and give up their pet miniature Nigerian dwarf goat, Patch.

Brittany Pirc, 15, bought the brown-and-white goat from an animal swap at the Kankakee fair grounds in April. Patch weighs about 20 pounds and is much smaller than the family’s two pet dogs, Bella, a 65-pound golden retriever and Sam, a 120-pound golden Labrador retriever.

Brittany is always bringing home rabbits, ducks and other critters, said her mother, Tina. The teen and neighborhood friend Lauren Cernak, 14, have a dog-walking business. They routinely walk a small herd of neighborhood pets, including Patch, much to the delight of neighborhood adults who ask the girls to stop so their kids can pet the goat.

Brittany also is a member of Providence High School’s cross-country team, which has adopted the goat as its unofficial mascot.

Anonymous complaint

The trouble started when an anonymous neighbor complained to the county, and that’s all it took to trigger a zoning ordinance notification. The county sent a letter last week informing the family of the violation.

“When I saw the letter, I started crying,” Brittany said. “He’s my pet and there’s really no reason for him to leave.”

Tina said she has talked to someone at the land use department and he told her she could seek a zoning change that would allow the goat. Or she could go to court and have a judge rule that miniature goats are domesticated, not agricultural, animals.

The zoning change could cost $2,500 and there is no guarantee the county board will OK the change, Tina said. So it could be money down the drain.

And she’s not sure how much the court action would cost, though there is a court precedent that allowed potbellied pigs as domesticated animals in the past, she said. So that may be a viable option.

Goat means goat

Curt Paddock, director of the county’s land use department, said he empathizes with the Pircs and believes it’s likely that his staff would recommend a zoning change that would enable the family to obtain a special-use permit to allow a goat for personal use with some restrictions. But he said the county board has the final say and would not have to follow the staff recommendation.

The problem with the county’s zoning ordinance is it doesn’t differentiate between a regular full-sized goat and a dwarf or pygmy goat, Paddock explained. The same is true in Channahon where in late 2008, village board members voted to evict a pet pygmy goat because the village’s ordinances prohibited all goats.

The county is updating its zoning ordinance and the public is encouraged to make recommendations that would clarify these types of issues, said David Dubois, director of development review for the land use department. Dubois said the public can make comments or get more information about the zoning update process at www.renewingwillcounty.com.

Paddock also recommended dwarf or pygmy goat fans investigate their zoning status before buying an unusual pet.

Tina is going to do some more research before she makes a decision on her appeal. Meanwhile, Brittany has found neighboring farm owners willing to house Patch until the issue is resolved.

Save the goat

On Friday, Patch ate leaves from a clematis plant and blades of ornamental grass in the Pircs’ big back yard while his owners discussed the zoning issue.

The nimble goat also jumped on top of an outdoor table. Brittany is house training the goat and trying to teach it to stop jumping.

The goat has slept with her at night, but it stays in an roomy enclosed outdoor pen when no one is home.

Other than an occasional “baaaa,” it’s pretty quiet, Tina said. Patch didn’t make a peep while a reporter was on the premises.

Noel Estates is a rural, unincorporated subdivision surrounded by farms. Almost all of the Pircs’ neighbors have signed a petition asking for the county to relent and let Patch stay. Some have put up signs that read, “Save Patch the goat.”

Neighbor Debbie Cernak, Lauren’s mom, said she wakes up to the sounds of peacocks and she once found a neighboring farmer’s cow in her driveway.

Cernak said Patch has been in her home and in her kitchen, and she doesn’t have a problem with him at all.

“The goat is more calm than my dog Lilly, who barks like crazy,” agreed neighbor Heidi Franc.

Weighing options

For now, Patch’s fate is up in the air. Tina wishes the neighbor who complained would have confronted her face to face.

“I’m pretty upset, actually, that somebody wouldn’t come and talk to us first,” she said. “They didn’t give us a reason why (they complained). We could have corrected it.”

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