Goats get loose

Goats, as seen in Norman Pfeil's welding shop compound, prior to their escape. (Submitted photo)

Bianca Bharti, Daily Herald

Goats were seen roaming the streets near downtown on Wednesday, leaving some residents confused.

Norman Pfeil, owner of The Welding Shop, borrowed five goats on Aug. 23 from a customer to help clean up his compound that was filled with weeds. He wanted to see how effective the goats would be since he didn’t want to use chemicals to remove the weeds and a lawnmower was not feasible because of scattered steel.

“They don’t harm anybody and it’s environmentally friendly,” Pfeil said.

Having goats and livestock in city limits is illegal, according to bylaw 26, also known as the responsible pet ownership bylaw.

Pfeil and Mayor Greg Dionne provided varying accounts of how the goats ended up in the compound.

Pfeil said he “made some calls and got permission to keep them there for temporary use.”

Dionne said Pfeil brought them in without checking because he heard council debate the issue at a meeting and thought it was allowed. The mayor, after finding out about the goats in the city, paid Pfeil a visit to discuss the issue.

Pfeil explained to the mayor that he wanted to use the goats to get rid of the weeds and that they would only be on his property for about a week. Dionne said he allowed it but also informed bylaw about the goats.

“I found his test interesting because he had a compound with lots of debris in it so we allowed the five goats to see what they could do in a week. Unfortunately, they escaped.”

On Wednesday, Pfeil alleged someone cut the fence on his property and all the goats got out at around 10:30 a.m. He was able to rein them in within 15 minutes.

Though owning goats in the city is illegal — unless it’s in designated agricultural zones north of the river — Ward 3 councillor Evert Botha said the city should support amending the bylaw or allowing permits for businesses to use goats as organic weed control in fenced areas.

“I certainly don’t think we’re quite ready for somebody to keep goats or sheep or pigs or horses long-term as pets, but I do believe we should applaud the initiative where we can get business owners who have big sections of land, that’s fenced in, to get goats in on a one-week or two-week basis to clear up the lots.

“The less chemicals in the environment, I think the better we’re off as residents,” he said. “I’d much rather have these goats cleaning up fields than going out and spraying chemicals.”

Currently a few cities have run pilot projects to look at the efficacy of goats as weed killers. Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer, Alta. have all ran successful goat weed control projects and some are looking to implement them regularly as part of weed control.

Mayor Dionne doesn’t think goat weed control would be a viable option in Prince Albert because it’s too hard to maintain, cost breakdown isn’t available and the city doesn’t have many fenced areas.

“If we had a 100 per cent fenced area and it needed to be cleaned, goats are the answers.”

Dionne said council looked at letting controlled goats graze near the riverbanks to avoid putting pesticides in the water, but in other instances and other areas of the city, sometimes chemicals are the answer.

Estelle Hjertaas, a Prince Albert resident, said she would like to see a goat weed control pilot project in the city.

“I know that other Canadian cities successfully use them and it is certainly better for the environment and human health to use goats over pesticides,” she wrote in a message. “The city should look at what other cities have done and see what rules they placed on the use of goats for weed control and create similar rules.”

In Calgary’s pilot project, goats were used to graze target areas of a park in an effort to rid invasive species, encourage biodiversity and manage costs, according to the city’s website. After amending bylaws, they are now looking to implement a proper goat weed grazing program.