Winston Fiore and his girlfriend, Rachel Auer, haven’t mowed their lawn in months.
That’s a job for Shelby and Gabby.
Shelby, a miniature Shetland sheep, and Gabby, a Nigerian dwarf goat, love munching on grass. Their owners love not having to use a machine to manicure their lot. The neighbors — especially the neighborhood kids — are equally enamored of the miniature breeds.
The city codes department? Not so much.
After seeing Shelby and Gabby in the back yard this month, city inspector Robert Hicks issued Fiore a violation.
St. Petersburg has an ordinance against livestock (goats, horses and cattle included) within 100 feet of a residence. Shelby and Gabby must go, the letter said.
Fiore, 28, and Auer, 27, are fighting back.
The couple, who moved here from Chicago this past summer, say Shelby and Gabby are their pets. They’re smaller than some medium-sized dogs (just fluffier). They don’t make much noise (they’re more of the cute, silent type). And they’ve already saved Fiore and Auer money on landscaping. They don’t even smell that bad.
“Across the United States — Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco — cities allows this,” Fiore said in a plea before the City Council on Monday. “I think it would be great if we could revisit this ordinance, or at least make an exception.”
Indeed, city officials have before. City Attorney Mark Winn reminded officials at the meeting Monday that the city bent the rules for potbellied pigs, which have been allowed in St. Petersburg since 1992.
“I’m sure we can figure out a way for him to keep (Shelby and Gabby) if that’s what the council wants to do,” Winn said.
City leaders would have to amend the current code.
Fiore, a former Marine who recently completed an urban agriculture apprenticeship up North, hopes that will happen.
Shelby and Gabby, who grew up on a north Georgia petting farm, are a hit here in Fiore’s Lake Euclid neighborhood, just north of 22nd Avenue N and west of 16th Street. Residents slip them treats through the fence. The pair, both females, already found plenty of work to do in the back yard, which once had knee-high weeds and grass. It’s now mostly flat, with some shin-high clumps remaining.
Auer, who is doing a speech pathology fellowship at Bay Pines VA Medical Center, and Fiore hope to eventually grow their brood. Once Shelby and Gabby get the yard in better shape, they want to add chickens, rabbits, maybe a pig. All are allowed in the city.
At the suggestion of council Chairman Karl Nurse, Fiore plans to go to a council committee meeting next month that will include a discussion about urban farming. He has already been in touch with council member Leslie Curran.
The city originally told the couple they had until Thursday to get rid of Shelby and Gabby. Officials recently gave them 30 more days.
“They’ve been anything but a nuisance,” Fiore said Tuesday, after feeding Shelby and Gabby a banana and carrot snack. They’re “the most low-maintenance pets ever.”
The neighbor’s dogs pressed their faces to the chain link fence and whimpered. They got a treat, too.