Stubborn as a mule in her campaign for a mini horse

  • Article by: CHRIS HAVENS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 21, 2007 - 10:24 AM

An Arden Hills girl is trying to persuade the city to classify the equine as a domestic animal so she can have one in her yard.

Earlier this summer, 10-year-old Natalie Linders asked her parents whether she could get a miniature horse for the back yard of their home in Arden Hills.

Her mom, Carol, who was not completely on board with the idea, told her to ask the city first. Sometimes there are regulations about these kinds of things. "We put her to work checking things out."

So Natalie asked the city, and even when she didn't like the answers, she's kept asking. Through e-mail, in a letter, even at a city meeting.

And she'll ask again on Monday night, when the people elected to the City Council by Natalie's mom and dad and all their neighbors will consider Natalie's question.

It's been asked about miniature horses and other animals across the country, with mixed results. Miniature horses are allowed in Colma, Calif., but not in Nevada, Iowa.

But based on previous cases, Natalie could have a tough case to make, says Zona Schneider of the American Miniature Horse Registry.

Anecdotal evidence tells Schneider that it's usually a no-win situation trying to get a mini horse on a residential lot because it is a horse. Neighbors don't like odors, and they don't like flies, she said.

'I love horses'

Natalie, who goes to horse camp in the summer and hangs horse posters on her bedroom walls, really wanted a big horse. But she knows that won't happen, especially in her back yard.

"It costs a lot of money to board a regular-size horse, and I heard they have smaller ones," she said. She read up on miniature horses and saw one at the State Fair. "I love horses."

When Natalie asked the city if a miniature horse was allowed, she was told miniature horses weren't mentioned. But animals are grouped in three ways -- domestic, farm and wild. Natalie's dogs are OK, but the city said her yard, about a third of an acre, isn't big enough for farm animals.

Natalie wasn't satisfied, so on Aug. 1 she sent an e-mail to city planner James Lehnhoff asking him to clarify how mini horses fit in the zoning rules.

"This is the first request we've had like this," he said.

He studied the definitions of the kinds of animals:

• Domestic: "Common household pets, such as dogs and cats, other animals kept for amusement, companionship, decoration or interest."

• Farm animals: "Animals traditionally kept or raised on a farm for the purpose of providing food or products for sale or use, such as cattle, horses, goats, sheep, swine, fowl, bees, and animals raised for fur."

Setting a precedent

Then he thought about Natalie's neighbors -- most folks don't want the smell of manure wafting through their window at breakfast.

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