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Get Your Goat

Stirring new amendments to health code regulations regarding exotic, wild, and hybrid animals.

Photo: Cat Downie/Shutterstock, License: N/A

Cat Downie/Shutterstock

A Pygmy Goat

The City of Baltimore recently made some stirring new amendments to health code regulations regarding exotic, wild, and hybrid animals. Previously, no more than four chickens could be kept on any Baltimore City property—now, you can own up to 10 chickens, provided your lot meets the specific size requirements. In the past, all “even-toed ungulates”—e.g., deer and sheep—were strictly prohibited. With these latest changes, however, goats of the “Miniature, Dwarf, or Pygmy breeds” may be kept with “at least 150 sq. ft. of permeable space” per goat. The list of changes goes on.

“We’re after sustainability,” says Abby Cocke, environmental planner for Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability. “One of the goals is to create a healthy local food system.” The changes to the regulations will affect residents, she says, but they will also help urban farming efforts around the city. “Real urban farming. . .has been increasing on its own, but we’re doing everything we can from the city side of things, from the policy side, to make it as easy as possible and to provide support for people, because it’s not easy to start a new community garden or to try to start a farming venture,” Cocke says.* 

You’ll need a permit if you want to harbor bees, pigeons, or rabbits. And a public hearing may be necessary if neighbors start questioning what’s going on in your backyard. But if you’ve got the homesteading itch, it will now be a bit easier to scratch.

*An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that a bill that would have granted tax breaks to nonprofit urban farmers was killed by a City Council committee late last year following opposition by the mayor's office. According to Abby Cocke, the tax breaks would have been granted to conservation land and land trusts, not to urban farms. City Paper regrets the error. 

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