When Stanley and Jo-Anne Miller’s eyes meet, one can easily see the love, trust and harmony that exists between them.
And now Miller is worried that she might lose such an important bond that helps her battle depression after someone complained to Tiny’s bylaw department that Stanley the goat doesn’t belong in the Cawaja Beach neighbourhood.
“He’s been my pet since day one,” Miller says, her eyes tearing up. “He’s a good pet and people love him. I take him on walks. He sleeps inside my home and has his own room. This has just been a nightmare."
A little over a year ago when Stanley was six weeks old, Miller rescued him from a dairy farm near Craighurst since male goats would normally be slaughtered.
Ever since that fateful day, the pair have been inseparable and have become a popular sight for both children and adults living in the Cawaja Beach area. Stanley’s friends include a wide array of dogs with whom he sometimes lies as they peacefully take in some sunshine while watching the world go by.
And since Stanley has been de-horned, he can’t necessarily be placed with another herd of goats as he’d have no way of defending himself.
“To find him a home...he’s not going to have the same life,” says Miller, who notes Stanley could have been named “Paddy” since he was born on St. Patrick’s Day of 2021.
“Never ever did I think there would be a problem. There’s been one complaint and it’s not like those from the township had never seen him before.”
Without a change in zoning for her modest quarter-acre property, the bylaw department says Stanley must be gone by May 30. If she does not comply with the order, she faces a $25,000 fine.
In a notice delivered to Miller on May 9, a township municipal law enforcement officer says "it has come to our attention, through a complaint that a goat resides on the property and therefore are operating a 'Hobby Farm,' which is prohibited" under a zoning bylaw.
The officer goes on to point out that since the property is zoned shoreline residential, Miller has until May 30 to comply with the enforcement order by removing the "Hobby Farm (goat)."
"Should the property be used as a Hobby Farm after the re-inspection date, evidence will be gathered with respect to laying of charges in this matter," the officer concludes in the correspondence obtained by MidlandToday.
"Failure to comply by May 30, will leave the Township no option but to commence legal proceedings pursuant to the Planning Act and Zoning Bylaw 06-001, as amended."
But Miller says that besides being her best friend, Stanley serves as an emotional support animal, who aids with her depression. She also has a doctor's note to that effect, but the township has chosen not to accept it, according to Miller.
In the note, Dr. Adrian Stacy says "the goat provides her with emotional support, and she feels it has a positive impact on her mood."
But Miller isn’t alone in her fight to keep Stanley at home.
On this particular afternoon, a crowd of about 20 supporters rallied at Miller’s home to show their support for the friendly animal.
“They’re so dependent on each other,” says friend and neighbour Anna Aggio. “He’s well loved by the whole community and Jo-Anne’s an incredible person. For the township to torture her like this is disgusting. It’s draconian.”
The group of friends is also helping Miller as she attempts to seek a zoning amendment for her modest property, which would allow her to keep Stanley. They’re also hoping someone with legal experience and/or planning expertise will offer to help out.
Another friend says everybody enjoys getting together at the beach with Stanley.
“He’s the mascot of Cawaja and we’re Stanley’s army,” Robin Elliott says. “Everybody’s talking about mental-health challenges these days. We’re just looking for a bit of compassion for Jo.”
While there’s also a paper petition, Michela Mucciaccio, another friend and neighbour, has started an online petition to help save Stanley.
Tiny's chief municipal bylaw enforcement officer Steve Harvey told MidlandToday that while the township can't comment on open enforcement matters in specific terms, he said that speaking generally the zoning bylaw in question and an animal control bylaw establish rules all residents must follow with respect to the permitted uses and zoning of their land.
"Through (these) bylaws, the sheltering of farm animals, like goats, is only permitted within a zone that permits a Hobby Farm or agricultural intensive use. Goats are not permitted on residentially zoned land," Harvey wrote in an email.
"Should a property owner wish to go beyond the permitted uses of their land, they would need to file a Zoning By-law Amendment Application and follow the applicable processes. Through that process, the property owner could also provide supporting documentation to support their justifications for such a request."
As of noon Thursday, the online petition had about 2,500 signatures.
“We are concerned for the well being of both Joanne and Stanley, and are asking for your help,” Mucciaccio says.
And many have taken up the offer to help the pair with one resident writing: “Stanley is so sweet and well-behaved, more than some people and their pets in this community.
“Joanne is a quiet and lovely person. Leave them be.”
Adds friend and Tiny mayoralty candidate Dave Evans: “It’s important to save Stanley, but it’s more important to save Jo-Anne."