Exotic animal owners seek permit in Milton

Current city law does not address allowing unusual pets

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MILTON, Ga. — Current Milton city zoning laws in agricultural areas only allow for domestic pets, including chickens, cows, horses and dogs and cats.

But planning commissioners have been recently tasked with defining another type of pet — exotic animals.

“It is a bit unusual,” said Paul Moore, planning commission vice chairman, at their Sept. 25 meeting to accommodate exotic animals in Milton.

The planning commissioners discussed establishing a permit for exotic animal ownership on land zoned agricultural (AG-1).

“Right now, the rules only allow domestic animals and we’re looking to allow exotic animals in land zoned [agricultural],” said Kathleen Field, Milton community development director.

The commission also met to clearly define and allow permitting of exotic animals.

Some of the changes would include a 6-foot fence added to a property with exotic animals. The number of animals would have to be reported to the community development director and the applicant for such a permit would have to comply with federal fish and wildlife permits as well. A report with an inventory of exotic animals, new additions including new births would have to be submitted to the city leaders.

“We have to define it, because there’s no definition for the city,” Field said.

A Hopewell Road resident, who has cared for animals for nearly 20 years, currently owns a 19-pound spider monkey and other exotic animals that are cared for and sometimes rehabbed at the property.

The property currently houses several small to medium animals that are licensed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The city is getting involved to allow for a land use permit, but not the enforcement, which is carried out by state and federal agencies.

“It’s about protecting those around you with land use,” Moore told the applicant. “Because it sounds like you’re pretty heavily regulated by other jurisdictions.”

The council would approve permits based on various factors such as human safety and noise issues.

“The permit will allow the council to weigh in on a case-by-case basis,” Field said. “Right now, there is no way for someone to own an animal not defined as domestic in an agricultural district.”

Current residents who already own exotic animals would have to comply with new regulations as well as continue to meet state and federal laws.

The owners would have to apply for a permit on an individual basis. Being grandfathered-in may not apply, but according to city officials, the man who owns monkeys has told them he is willing to comply with any new regulations.

“We felt we needed to create this exotic animal designation to cover those residents who may meet state and federal laws, but aren’t represented by locally,” Field said.

The planning commission will present their recommendations to the city council at the Oct. 15 regular meeting.

Aldo Nahed contributed reporting to this article.

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