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Is It True That Many Major Cities Ban Livestock Within City Limits?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Many major cities and large towns around the world, especially in the United States, ban livestock within city limits. There are a number of reasons to ban livestock, but the primary issues have to do with the sounds and smells associated with livestock, along with potential public health risks and the probability of animal cruelty. In some cities, the decision to ban livestock is vigorously opposed by citizens, who would like to be able to keep a few farm animals on a city lot as pets or potential food sources. If livestock is discovered within the limits of a city where it is banned, the city may confiscate the animals or order the owner to move them.

The issues of noise and smell as related to livestock are immense. Throughout most of human history, humans and livestock have lived together in cities which were often crowded, dirty, and noisy. Manure accumulated in the streets, and people had difficulty sleeping because of the clucking of chickens and other assorted barnyard noises. The smell of confined livestock can also be quite formidable, especially if the animals are not well cared for. Even in the twentieth century, the issue of animal dung in the streets was serious enough for several cities, including New York City, to pass ordinances regarding the disposal of manure and to ultimately ban livestock altogether.

The choice to ban livestock is also closely related to public health. Left unchecked, livestock can contaminate the air and city water in addition to smelling unpleasant and making a mess. Livestock often carry diseases which can infect people, such as virulent strains of influenza and bacteria like Escherichia coli. Especially in crowded conditions, these health threats can multiply and infect a large population. By restricting livestock to more rural locations with a law to ban livestock, cities hope to keep their populations safe from epidemics.

Finally, many cities have grown concerned about animal cruelty, as many nations are starting to recognize that animal cruelty is a serious issue which should be addressed and punished. In response to this issue, many cities have passed legislation to ban livestock as part of an overall effort to reduce animal cruelty. Livestock kept in cities are often kept in dangerous, unsanitary conditions which are deemed to be cruel to the animals, and some infamous animal hoarders have kept livestock in appalling conditions within city limits. Although a city cannot put a stop to animal cruelty when it chooses to ban livestock, it can help reduce the probability by ensuring that livestock is housed in conditions which are more appropriate, such as roomy paddocks for horses, rather than city lots.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By amypollick — On Jun 12, 2013

@anon338284: The city planning director should know whether your area is zoned for keeping chickens or goats. Otherwise, just call your city council representative, if you live inside the city limits or county commissioner, if outside the city limits. They can tell you whom you need to contact.

By anon338284 — On Jun 12, 2013

How can I find out if I am able to have some sheep (i.e., to which department or office do I turn)? I've checked the websites for the city and the county and can't seem to find where I should contact. I'm in Apple Valley, Minnesota (Dakota County). Does anyone know?

By anon304906 — On Nov 22, 2012

I have had smaller livestock such as sheep or goats on my property in California, but I'm not sure if we're allowed to have cattle.

By anon292208 — On Sep 18, 2012

I live in Bourbon County, Ky., but inside the city limits of Paris, Ky. Can they have calves inside the city limits next door where I have to smell it and hear it?

By cricket29 — On Oct 15, 2010

if a city has an ordinance to ban livestock inside the city limits, how can they grandfather sheep for one person and deny anyone else livestock?

By sherry625 — On May 07, 2007

What type of animals are illegal to have as pets in Louisville, KY? (or where do you go to find out?)

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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