, Salem, MA

August 29, 2008

Noisy barnyard pets in Peabody get neighbors' goat

By Matthew K. Roy

PEABODY — Everyone agrees the goats could be more discreet.

"The two goats do make a considerable amount of noise, more than what I like to hear," said their owner, Domingos Furtado of 37 N. Central St. in Peabody.

Eric Pelser, Furtado's neighbor, said the goats' vocal prowess keeps his windows closed and his wife, a nurse who works nights, awake.

"Sleep deprivation is very difficult, and I feel bad for her," Pelser told the Board of Health Wednesday night. "I'm not here to make war with Mr. Furtado, I'm here to protect my wife so she can sleep during the day."

Furtado needs a board permit to keep his nine chickens, one pig and two goats on his property. The board let him keep the chickens and pig, but delayed deciding the goats' fate. Furtado has 30 days to figure out a way to keep them quiet.

Even as the board approved the 30-day window, Chairman John Barry acknowledged Furtado has a tough, potentially impossible, task ahead of him.

"Is there a way to quiet a goat?" Barry asked Furtado.

"I cannot promise you or anybody in this room that they're not going to make noise," he responded. "They make noise because they want to be petted."

"So the answer is that (making noise) is their natural reaction," Barry said.

"That is very correct," Furtado said.

The permit hearing came after an anonymous neighbor's complaint to the city.

The neighbor forwarded Public Health Director Sharon Cameron a video recording of the alleged racket.

"It's the first complaint I've received via YouTube," Cameron said, referring to a Web site that hosts user-submitted videos. She had no way to authenticate the sounds, but Cameron could see how they could be bothersome to people living nearby.

Smell is also a concern of the neighbors, however, the dairy farm that abuts the back of Furtado's property makes it hard to decipher the source, Cameron said. Furtado's yard — he estimated his lot to be roughly three-fourths of an acre — is long and narrow and well-maintained, she said.

"We have a lot of residents in the city who are interested in maintaining nontypical pets on their premises," Barry said. "Our practice has been to honor the request as long as it's not a burden to the neighbors."

But the board's leniency is tested when the pet or pets create a headache for neighbors, according to Barry.

"If they're still making noise (after 30 days) and it's unacceptable and creating a nuisance for the abutters then we won't be able to approve the permits for the goats," he said.

Furtado has had the goats for three months. He said the complaints caught him off guard.

"The minute you pet them, that's it, the noise disappears," he said. "It's not like they make noise all the time."

How will he keep the noise in check?

"I'm going to try and do something to quiet them down," Furtado said. "I'll do the best I can."