We don’t envy the decision the Gardner Planning Commission will be asked to make. They’ll be asked whether the Souter family can keep their miniature pony, Blazer, in the backyard of their subdivision home.
We don’t like the idea of livestock in the middle of town, but Blazer appears to be a quiet pet as opposed to a barnyard animal, and until quite recently, Blazer had a permit.
At least two neighbors complained to city council members about the miniature pony’s offensive odor, but Gardner News staff didn’t notice it – not in the neighborhood or in the Souter’s yard.
Animal control officials must not have noticed the smell either. They visited the home several times and made inquiries with neighbors before granting a special permit that allowed Blazer to live within city limits.
Animal control officials with the police department changed their tune and revoked the permit only after neighbors complained to the city council. The timing smacks of a political game, rather than following the rules the department already had in place.
It was only then that city officials realized they had two separate areas in city code that deal with animals like Blazer. Animal control had codes that would allow police to grant the permit. Planning Commission codes say otherwise. They stipulate that in order to have a horse of any size within city limits, the horse must reside on a lot that is at least three acres.
That’s not the case in Parma where the Souters live, and so, they’ll be asking for a special use permit, or exception, from the Gardner Planning Commission.
We hope they get it.
The Souters did everything correctly. They notified animal control and went through the months-long process to keep Blazer.
They talked to several of their neighbors about their pet and appear to have made a good faith effort to keep Blazer in a clean and quiet environment. Blazer truly is only slightly larger than an extra-large breed dog and he makes less noise.
He’s also housed in a large yard – by today’s subdivision standards – and is invisible to virtually all of his neighbors courtesy of a tall privacy fence and large trees.
We’re not advocating a city code that would allow everyone in town to keep a miniature horse in their backyards. The codes should be changed to alleviate the conflict between animal control and planning; the clean-up should probably disallow such pets in the future.
However, there’s no reason Blazer shouldn’t be given a special dispensation when his family followed all the rules. When in doubt, public officials should always err on the side of protecting personal property rights.
If the subdivision and neighboring yards smell as clean as they did when we visited, Blazer should be allowed to stay.