Think this miniature goat is cute? Well, you could have two of them under Eureka’s updated pet ordinance | Photo from Pixabay user johannaschendell


You’ve heard of those weird laws that are still on the books, even though they’ve become obsolete. For example, in Eureka you are not allowed to keep more than 100 homing pigeons and, according to the City of Eureka’s current animal ordinance, when you let your pigeons out for exercise or racing, it cannot be “within 25 feet of any door or window of a habitable room of a dwelling.”

It seems that racing homing pigeons has largely gone out of style since the ordinance was drafted 62 years ago, and a few other things have also changed when it comes to what types of animals we keep and how we care for them. This is why Eureka City staff has been working to update the ordinance, making it more applicable to the present day. 

“We have different expectations when it comes to the quality of life now,” Eureka Police Department Captain Brian Stephens told the Outpost on Thursday. “How we see our pets has changed dramatically since the ‘50s. We have to be progressive to make sure we have the tools to address issues and make sure our city stays safe.”

The EPD Animal Control Department and other city staff have been in the process of updating the ordinance for about five years — conducting research, consulting with experts and rewriting the text multiple times, Stephens said. After the City released a draft animal ordinance in 2019 that was met with a lot of public concern, staff made a few amendments and Stephens feels that the latest draft is something that can benefit the residents — both human and animalian — of Eureka.

So, what exactly would the ordinance do? Well, in addition to taking out some antiquated sections about homing pigeons and city dairies, the updated ordinance includes a lot more specifications on what kinds and how many animals you can keep.

For example, the ordinance would permit residents to keep one miniature pig and up to two miniature goats (you’d be allowed more if they’re baby piglets and/or goats under four weeks old). The ordinance still forbids keeping full-size pigs or goats within city limits, as well as their hooved friends: sheep, deer, elk, alpacas and llamas.

Similarly to the 2019 version — the ordinance  would prohibit the ownership of more than three dogs (excluding puppies under four months), unless you obtain a special license. But instead of requiring a kennel license, you would be required to obtain a  “Dog Fancier” license from the City, whereas owners of more than three cats would need to obtain a “Cat Fancier” license.

The ordinance would also prohibit residents from keeping more than six animals total of any combination of dogs, cats, miniature pigs and miniature goats. So, if you were to own, say, four dogs (with your “dog fancier” license) you could only have two cats, mini goats or pigs.

Some other restrictions include a limit of 10 lizards, snakes, insects and small rodents — such as guinea pigs, rats and mice. You could keep up to 20 rabbits on any property smaller than 5,000 square feet and up to 30 on properties larger than 5,000 square feet. There is no specified number for horses, but you could not keep one (understandably) on any property smaller than 11,000 square feet.

As for poultry — including pigeons, chickens, ducks, geese — you would be limited to 10 on a property up to 5,000 square feet and 20 on larger properties. This is excluding racing-homing pigeons, according to the ordinance. So whether or not you can still keep 100 of those is a little unclear.

Though some of this may sound surprisingly restrictive, Stephens wanted to assure the public that exceptions can be made through special variances granted by the city. If someone believes the restrictions are unreasonable, they can request a hearing from the City Manager, the ordinance states.

The ordinance states that violators would have 30 days to remove the “excess or prohibited Animals from the premises” after which point the city could fine them or have the authority to seize the animal(s), but Stephens also said that the ordinance is not necessarily meant to be punitive and that the City would focus on guiding folks through the necessary processes to allow them to safely keep their pets.

“We want to provide the avenues for people to legally care for these animals,”  Stephens told the Outpost. “I’m getting so many questions about seizing dogs, if you have more than three dogs. We won’t be seizing dogs.”  This is, of course, with the exception of nuisance animals or negligent owners, Stephens added. If you are keeping animals in unsanitary conditions — also strictly forbidden by the ordinance — if the animal or its home are deemed a public safety hazard, the City will take necessary action.

Of course, the restrictions are not yet finalized and amendments will be made before the ordinance comes before the Eureka City Council for adoption. Stephens strongly encourages those with concerns to attend the city’s public workshop on Tuesday. Stephens said he has already received over a dozen emails about the ordinance and the City has made some adjustments, which will be discussed during Tuesday’s workshop. After the workshop, staff will make more necessary changes and the draft ordinance should go before the City Council in April, Stephens said.

The City of Eureka will hold the public workshop on the draft Animal Ordinance on Tuesday, March 9 at 5:00 p.m. You can find the zoom link and directions on how to participate here.

You can view the updated ordinance here.