Tom Tom the goat could spur Bluffton livestock ban

cconley@islandpacket.comMay 9, 2012 

Anne Cooke's three-year-old billy goat lives in a pen behind her Heyward Street home, loves kudzu and keeps her lawn at a manageable height.

He's also the reason some officials are pushing a livestock ban in Bluffton.

A white Boer goat, Tom Tom is said to be quiet, nonaggressive and, if his recent adventures are any indication, quite clever.

Neighbor Dan Wood describes the animal as "a hoot," and says he's even taken his grandchildren to see him.

"The only issues I have had is that it gets loose a lot, and it eats my shrubbery," Wood said Wednesday. "Over the course of the last year, it's probably been loose ... 10, 12, 15 times."

Just this week, he had to shoo the critter away with a rake.

Although he hasn't filed a complaint, Wood said his patience is wearing thin.

He's not alone.

Bluffton Police Chief David McAllister told Town Council on Tuesday that Tom Tom-related problems have started to take up too much police time.

"That goat gets out anywhere between three and four times a month, and my police officers have become expert goat wranglers, which is not something they teach at the police academy," he said.

According to police reports, officers have been called about Tom Tom three times in the past two years.

On March 10, Cooke called after Tom Tom got stuck in a tree and was dangling, upside down, from his leash.

On April 26, police received two calls from someone who became worried after seeing the goat roaming Cooke's front yard.

Cooke, who received Tom Tom as a gift, rejects the notion he's a nuisance. She's also not planning to give him up.

"I have permission to keep him and I am going to keep him," she said.

McAllister wants the town to ban farm animal except where zoning expressly allows them. The existing regulations, he said, opens a whole barnyard of problems.

"At some point, you are going to be faced with, 'Well, he has a pot-bellied pig, and she has a pygmy goat, and I want a tyrannosaurus rex,' or whatever the next thing is," McAllister told council Tuesday night.

The town's livestock ordinance already bans farm animals in most residential areas without specific approval from council "unless otherwise allowed by zoning regulations." The town also requires neighbors to sign off on any request to keep livestock.

Tom Tom and two pygmy goats in Rose Dhu Creek Plantation are the only livestock permitted under the ordinance, according to town records.

There are signs council is taking a tougher stance on such animals.

On Tuesday, it rejected a request by Brooke Fisher to keep pot-bellied pigs on her three-acre property in Rose Dhu Creek. Fisher said she's had the pigs -- Homer and Hamlet -- for three years but only recently learned she needed permission to keep them.

Fisher can appeal the decision but could be forced to give up the porkers, town officials said.

McAllister has not proposed specific revisions to the livestock ordinance, but said he could prepare a draft of changes for discussion next month. It's not clear if animals already being kept in town would be affected by any revisions.

Wood, the neighbor, maintains a sense of humor about Tom Tom and said he has no issues with Cooke, who he considers a friend. But he agrees more regulation governing livestock would be helpful.

"I knew there was talk of possibly other people having livestock, and my point was, you need to really take a hard look at it and be careful," he said.

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