Sheep Put Out To Pasture Over Rules

Categories: Zoning&Codes, Urban Issues, Life Stories

This is the story of a shepherd who lost her sheep and what might have been. Rene Shepard, 45, stood before city councilors in October and urged them to amend city ordinances to allow her to keep her miniature sheep in her backyard.  “Look, the City Council deals with really big issues, and I get that,” Shepard said. “All I’m trying to do is amend the current law to allow pets (on residential property) to include small ruminants.”  Webster’s New World College Dictionary describes ruminants as “cud-chewing animals.”Shepard’s darlings were two Babydoll Southdown sheep named Quapaw and Cherokee.  They were small — about 18 inches tall — and that’s important to remember, Shepard said.  “I would like the law to include milk goats and small breeds of sheep,” she said. “We don’t want to include all sheep because there are some sheeposaurus.”

Cherokee (left) and Quapaw are the two sheep that Loren Shepard and his wife, Rene Shepard, recently gave up because city ordinances do not allow such animals to be kept on property zoned nonagricultural.

Shepard had to give up Quapaw and Cherokee on Thursday after the farm that had been keeping them free of charge said it will now cost $100 a month.

“I don’t think I have it in my budget to be able to afford paying $100 a month to baby-sit my sheep until the City Council makes up their mind,” Shepard said. “So I’m going to have to sell them.”

But she hasn’t given up the fight to change the ordinance.  “Civil disobedience. It’s the only way to get things changed, and that needs to be changed,” Shepard said.  

City ordinances prohibit residents from keeping goats and sheep on property not zoned for agriculture. The City Council would have to approve and the mayor sign any change to the ordinance.

Dwain Midget, the city’s director of community and economic development, said any ordinance change would include the same spay, neutering and other requirements placed on pet owners.

“It’s a woolly situation,” Midget said with a straight face. “If you don’t look at everything closely,” it could be a problem.

Shepard has proposed that the city consider allowing residents to pay a $65 exemption fee to keep up to five miniature sheep or goats on their property.

“It’s a source of income for my family, it’s a source of food for my family, and they’re great pets,” Shepard said before giving them up. “They’re so much fun.”

Quapaw and Cherokee called Shepard’s backyard in north Tulsa home for a couple of weeks this summer until Animal Control showed up with trucks to take them away.

Before that could happen, Shepard took them back to the farm in Lenepah where she had traded a couple of homemade leather belts for them.

Without the sheep, “We had to mow the lawn, and we killed a bunch of equipment,” Shepard said. “If we had had a couple of sheep or a couple of goats we could have moved them around to clean up without killing our equipment, and we could have used what came out of the other end to keep our gardens.”

That’s right. Shepard wanted to use her sheep’s manure to fertilize her garden.

This summer, with her Babydolls gone, she turned to chickens, whose manure helped grow the first cantaloupes and watermelon her husband, Loren, has eaten in 16 years without blisters forming inside his mouth.

“It’s evidently commercial fertilizer or commercial pesticide that they grow this stuff in that caused that,” Shepard said.

The income that sheep provide comes from their wool, she said.

“I belong to a medieval club where they hand-spin wool to weave into crafts,” Shepard said. “I had already traded Quapaw’s brown wool for someone to make a garment for me.”

The city’s Legal Department is researching how city ordinances could be changed to accommodate Shepard’s request. But Jean Letcher, the city’s animal welfare manager, said officials need to proceed with caution.

“These miniature sheep are darling,” she said. “But it opens the door for people to petition for many varieties of miniature livestock."

Shepard’s request raises a lot of questions, from who would determine what constitutes a miniature animal to what consideration should be given to neighbors’ concerns, Letcher said.

“Whereas right now you have to be an agriculturally zoned area to have livestock,” Letcher said, “where do you draw the line?”

As for Shepard, she hasn’t given up on having Babydolls back in her yard one day.

“If they change the code, I’m going to get those animals — Babydolls are awesome,” she said.

via ~Tulsa World December 2013  By Kevin Canfield

How do you feel about zoning laws and rules when it effects your decisions about everyday life?  Are they better for the neighbors?  Or do they get in the way all too often?  Do there need to be better ways to have exceptions to the rules?  Or is this a get the sheep and see if someone complains scenario where laws lay dormant in wait of a frustrated neighbor?  Are these types of laws over-reaching?  Do we really want the city telling us what we can do with our land?  Did we ask them to protect our property values from our neighbors habits? What if a neighbor has a messy yard?  Does the city have a right to make them clean it up?  Constitutionally? 

 Enjoy this cute video of Bonnie Blue and her favorite Ram, from the bottom of the South Island in New Zealand

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