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Saturday, July 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gardening: City farmers must be certified, follow ordinance

Sandra Blackwell feeds her chickens in her backyard in Spokane on  March 24, 2017. As interest grows in keeping small livestock on city lots, urban farmers are urged to get the required certification. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Sandra Blackwell feeds her chickens in her backyard in Spokane on March 24, 2017. As interest grows in keeping small livestock on city lots, urban farmers are urged to get the required certification. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Over the last 10 years there has been a lot of interest across the country, including in Spokane, in keeping small livestock on city lots. People wanted to keep chickens for the freshest eggs. Other people wanted fresh goat’s milk and wool fiber for weaving. Still others loved the companionship and novelty of small breeds of pigs.

In spring 2014, the city of Spokane joined the trend and passed an ordinance that allows residents to keep goats, sheep and small pigs on city lots. But to do so, there are rules that need to be followed. As always.

Under the first rule, to keep these animals in the city, you must be certified to have them before you get them. The WSU Spokane Extension Small Farms and Urban Agriculture Program offers periodic breed specific classes that cover breed selection, animal health, housing and fencing and specifics of the animal ordinances. These classes assure the city’s code enforcement department and SCRAPS that you are capable of caring for the animals and being a good neighbor to those around you.

Secondly, only certain sizes of animals are allowed. Animals can be no taller than 3 feet at the shoulder and must weigh under 150 pounds. This allows only small breeds of goats like nubian and Nigerian dwarf; pigs such as potbelly, kuni kuni and teacup; and the numerous breeds of miniature sheep. The reasoning was that larger breeds can sometimes be hard to handle on a small city lot. Neutered males are allowed.

You can have one sheep, goat or pig for every 2,500 square feet of lot size. If you have a 9,000 square foot lot you can have only three animals.

Keeping small livestock will require daily care of the animals. If you want to go to the lake for the weekend, you will have to find trained friends who can come in and check on the animals. They will need fresh water and food; their pens will need to be cleaned; and the animals must be observed for injuries and health issues.

These animals are not like your dog or cat when it comes to housing, food and bedding. All of them will need a sturdy pen with the appropriate fencing and a shelter from the sun and rain. You will need space to safely store hay and grain where mice and rats can’t get it, it stays dry and it’s easy to get to for you. You will need a manure management plan because, well, if you don’t then your place and the whole neighborhood will stink. Your neighbors won’t like it.

Lastly, where did dogs, cats and chickens fall under this ordinance? You can still have up to three cats and/or three dogs but no more than four total. For chickens, you can have one bird per 1,000 square feet of lot size. The number of animals is cumulative; in our example above you could only have two chickens along with your three livestock. Roosters are not allowed.

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