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Before you get a goat, it is important to understand legal issues, disease concerns, goat husbandry, milking, and sanitation before you get a goat as a pet or for food production.
Legal aspects of goat ownership
- Before considering getting goats, check applicable local regulations to find out if they can legally be kept where you live. In Seattle, the number of goats and other animals that can be kept varies by lot size; see Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 23.42.052 for specific regulations. Other requirements for goat ownership are governed by sections of SMC 9.25.
- Only pygmy, dwarf and miniature goats may be kept in Seattle. They must be dehorned and male goats must be neutered. Annual licenses are required. For information on licensing costs consult the Seattle Animal Shelter at 206-386-7387 or online.
- Goats in Seattle must be kept on the owner's property except for purposes of transport or when on other property with the permission of a lawful occupant of that property.
- Ordinances in cities other than Seattle will vary - consult your city offices for more information. In unincorporated King County, animal-related regulations can be found in Chapter 21A.30.
Prevent disease transmission to people
- SANITATION & HANDWASHING: Goats can carry bacteria in their intestines or urine that cause diseases in humans. It is essential to keep goats in clean and sanitary conditions. It is also very important to wash your hands and dirty clothing after coming in contact with goats or their environment.
- COMPOSTING MANURE: To help prevent disease transmission, goat manure should be properly composted before use in garden, lawns or places where children play. Proper composting creates heat, which will help destroy potentially harmful bacteria.
- PRECAUTIONS AT BIRTHING: Goats can carry bacteria, such Coxiella (which causes Q-fever disease), that are shed when the animal gives birth. Sanitation is especially important at this time. Keep goats in a quiet place and away from children and strangers when they give birth. Only the goat owner should attend the birth and handle the newborn kids.
- PASTEURIZING MILK: Raw (unpasteurized) goat milk can contain bacteria and other pathogens that can cause serious illness in humans or animals that consume it. Goat's milk should always be pasteurized before drinking or cheese-making. See significant risks of raw milk and cheeses.
- Goats are herd animals and don't like being alone. You should plan to keep at least two goats on your property.
- Goats need shelter to keep them out of the rain and wind, proper food, and frequent hoof trimming. Goats are browsers and need hay or roughage like berry vines and brush to stay healthy; they cannot be expected to eat just grass.
- Other information on goat husbandry can be found at the National Pygmy Goat Association.
- Good fencing is critical to keep your goats confined, and to keep out dogs or coyotes that may attack goats. Goats are agile and good jumpers and climbers. If not securely confined, goats will get loose and may eat your neighbor's valuable landscape plants, climb onto cars or get themselves into other kinds of trouble. Before constructing a fence in Seattle, check with the Dept. of Planning & Development about specific requirements for your location.
- Unpasteurized goat's milk and cheese have caused outbreaks of serious gastrointestinal diseases, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli O157:H7 infections. E. coli O157:H7 infection can be particularly severe in young children, pregnant women and elderly adults, and can cause kidney failure or death. Details on raw milk.
- Pasteurization of milk destroys harmful bacteria. Public Health strongly recommends that goat's milk be properly pasteurized before consumption or being made into cheese. The pasteurization process requires that the milk be heated to a temperature of 145° F for 30 minutes.
- Goats producing milk require daily milking. For goats to produce milk they must be bred and give birth. Have a prospective home for the kids (baby goats) if you intend to breed your goat. Be sure you pre-select a veterinarian experienced in caring for goats in case medical care is needed at birthing. This veterinarian should also be willing to do the required dehorning (both sexes) and neutering (male goats only).
- Goat's milk, cheese or other milk products may not be sold, bartered or given away unless you meet certain requirements and have obtained the proper licenses. Contact the Washington State Dept. of Agriculture's Food Safety Program at 360-902-1876 for more information.
- Goat manure should be composted before being used. During composting, monitor it for temperature to ensure that harmful bacteria in the droppings are destroyed. Adequate composting consists of maintaining a compost pile temperature of 130-150° F for 3 days.
- Goat droppings can carry bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli O157:H7. It is important to practice good hand-washing after touching goats or their environment. This is especially important for children, who can become seriously ill from these bacteria.
- Stress can cause goats to release even more bacteria than usual. Being handled by strangers and crowding cause stress for goats. Goats are not appropriate hands-on entertainment for small children.
- Keeping your goats' environment clean will help keep flies and rodents from breeding in your yard.