Do Five Goats Equal One Cow?

Posted: October 26, 1989

Donald and Barbara Mangus don't want Mansfield's zoning rules to get their goats.

So they have filed suit in Burlington County Superior Court challenging a township ordinance that threatens three of the four goats kept on their land.

The suit, filed yesterday, contends that an ordinance restricting the number of livestock on township land is so vague as to be unconstitutional. According to the ordinance, only "one livestock" can be kept on one acre. But, the suit contends, the word livestock is not defined.

The couple yesterday asked Superior Court Judge Martin L. Haines to temporarily set aside the ordinance. The judge, however, declined to issue an injunction.

The couple own a 1.1-acre tract of land on Petticoat Bridge Road, where they keep four goats and 12 chickens, according to the suit. The animals provide milk, eggs and meat for the family.

The chickens are considered poultry and are not covered by the township ordinance. But Mansfield officials have been pressing the Manguses to get rid of the extra goats. The couple have been ordered to appear in Municipal Court on Nov. 9.

John Lee Madden, solicitor for the township, said he thought the ordinance would stand up to the constitutional test. Madden said the rules were not vague, adding that in another part of the ordinance there was a reference to horses, cows, sheep and goats, which he said should be interpreted as livestock.

The Manguses argue that Mansfield, a largely rural but fast-developing township of 3,800 residents in northern Burlington County, should count livestock the way Rutgers University's Cooperative Extension recommends. The extension uses animal units, based on the food and space needed by different kinds of animals, the suit said. In that scheme, five goats are the equivalent of one cow.

But Madden said the couple had made the argument to the township's Zoning Board in the spring and was rejected.

The Manguses contend in the suit that the township's enforcement of the 10- year-old statute was a form of retaliation because they had complained about their neighbors, who were township employees.

Madden said retaliation was not a motive in the case. The object of the couple's complaints - a gas tank - eventually was removed, he said.

The suit names the township, Zoning Officer William Colyer and Ronald Carty, chairman of the Zoning Board. The suit asks that the ordinance be set aside and seeks unspecified damages.

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