July 25, 1914
There was a time in Newfoundland and Labrador when most families could lay claim to owning a few farm animals, most families had a horse, a cow, a few goats and hens. They were in most cases essential to the economic survival of the family. In St. John’s, farm animals in an emerging urban environment, in July 1914, were often the source of considerable conflict.
Animals wandering about the town were such a source of tension that the city had on staff an “Impounder”. The job title would now be animal control.
John Anderson, one of the new City Councilors appointed in 1914, was not impressed that goats were constantly in the small park near the East End Fire Hall destroying trees. He decided to start doing a little investigating. “Where is the impounder, who is he and how much salary does he get? The newly appointed Councillor asked.
Anderson was soon to discover that the “Impounder” was paid a very respectable $36.50 per month but more interestingly was also entitled to a few bonuses. Anderson discovered that the ‘Impounder’ got an additional $2 for every horse or cow that he impounded but only 50c for a goat.
Anderson concluded because less commission was paid for catching goats “the impounder was directing his attention to the horses and cows that gave him a better income there by allowing goats to roam the city unmolested and destroy what property they liked.”
Anderson decided to have a few conversations with the impounder to discover that there were a couple of more issues to consider. He reported that “he had learned on various occasions from the impounder that it was almost an impossibility to catch a goat” The goats that wandered about the town munching on the grass in the parks and on private property were quick and agile. It was much easier to catch a horse or cow.
The impounder also reported that another problem that he encountered were the women of St. John’s. The impounder reported ‘when he did succeed in catching a goat, one the women of the neighbourhood would attack him and that in all cases he would have to surrender the goat to the woman.’
Women were quite determined to defend their goats. It was these goats that were often the source of the families’ milk and cheese.
The Council has little sympathy of the impounder, Anderson suggested he was “making a bonanza of it” and that in the future he would have to give a more strict accounting as to how many animals he had impounded.
The disdain and dislike that some had for goats that wandered about the city damaging property especially private property was palpable. In 1855 Thomas MacDonald was dragged before the courts for shooting the goat of his neighbor, James Cochrane. In 1880 William & Albert Hann sued their neighbor Charles D. Chambers for damages done to their property. They later killed the goat.
Did you know that according to St. John’s Animal Control bylaw (#1514), that you are permitted to have your own goats (ducks and chickens), they all fall under the same bylaw as your friendly neighborhood dog and cat.
Did you know that “animal shelters” evolved from “pounds” , which were used in colonial towns to round up and hold wandering livestock that could be redeemed from the “impounder” for a fee. Because an economic value was placed on these animals, (horses, cows, goats) they were often reclaimed. When the system began to be used to impound wandering dogs and cats, these animals were often killed because little monetary value was placed on them.
Recommended Archival Collection: [Fonds GN 170] Newfoundland and Labrador court records collection. You will find some amusing and not so amusing antics of goats and their flustered neighbours.
Recommended: Support the work of the SPCA. The vision of the SPCA is to prevent animal cruelty; educate about humane treatment of animals; provide shelter and love to abandoned and abused animals; and encourage adoption to suitable homes. Read More: http://spcastjohns.org/index.php
Goats in Song. Have you heard about the the goat in the town of Mobile on the Southern Shore of Newfoundland. Sing along: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APJgbBS-840