Animal lovers fear fences may hurt pets

Electrified wire used to pen goats in parts of the The City as they graze on unwanted dried grass and vegetation has caused some animal lovers to fret over household pets and native critters that can be trapped and zapped among the herds of bleating bovids.

Several city departments hire goat-herding companies to control fire outbreaks without using pesticides. The herds are used for one- to two-week stints at locations throughout The City, including at the airport.

Laurie Routhier, chairwoman of the San Francisco Commission of Animal Control and Welfare, the agency charged with protecting and controlling animals, hopes to create a citywide policy to protect pets and wild animals from the confines of the electric wire.

“Because the wire starts so low to the ground and goes so high, any kind of wildlife, or any kind of animal that’s in the area, gets trapped with the goats,” Routhier said.

Small animals, including skunks, raccoons and cats, are vulnerable to being trapped with the goats, Routhier said. She said animals that sleep during the day when the temporary fences are erected are most at risk.

“Everybody is pro-goats — everybody who comes to us thinks it’s a win-win,” Routhier said. “What they are asking is just that when these goat companies make contracts with The City, that they already know that they need to account for those animals.”

The commission will discuss possible solutions this week that might include requiring goat-grazing companies to install noncharged sections of fence, or to build escape tunnels through or under the charged wire.

A founder of a goat-grazing company frequently used by The City said her full-time herders move the 12-volt battery-powered fences regularly, including daily at the airport. “The fences are more for their protection — to keep them out of areas they shouldn’t be,” Goats R Us co-founder Terry Oyarzun said. “They also keep out dogs, which is their worst predator.”

Goats are usually tended by a goat herder — a seemingly exotic job that L.B. Railco President David Gavrich learned is in abundant supply. Gavrich since last weekend has received roughly 75 job applications from San Francisco residents who profess to have “goat experience” and hope to tend 11 goats to keep weeds down at the railroad at the Port of San Francisco.

jupton@examiner.com

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