Ava Anissipour’s mission might seem odd to some.
The 12-year-old is intelligent, articulate and can put together a PowerPoint presentation that would put a lot of adults to shame. She’s going into eighth grade at a Montessori school.
She certainly caught the attention of the Federal Way City Council and the mayor.
Ava wants to change this city’s codes so pygmy goats – which are considered livestock animals and allowed only on property larger than 1.6 acres – are reclassified as household pets.
Ava and her mother, Kelly Anissipour, live in a planned-housing development with tiny lots less than one-tenth that size.
Ava has one goat, which a pediatrician classified as a companion animal for what
Ava says are her anxieties. She wants the return of a second goat, now boarded with a friend after the city issued a $100 citation.
The neighbors on either side of the Anissipour home are not happy with what one describes in an animal-service complaint as noise and smell that “has become unbearable ... We can’t even enjoy our backyard for the smell of hers.”
The Anissipours also have three dogs, a small one and a Saint Bernard they’re fostering but might keep, and a mastiff. The latter two weigh 130 pounds each. The dogs and goats live both inside and outside the house.
At the Aug. 6 City Council meeting, Jim Ferrell, a council member and deputy mayor, heard Ava make her case and said it was “most thorough” and “well-presented,” and for good measure added that, “You have a future in some sort of government role.”
By October, a staff report is expected on whether the regulations should be changed, said city spokesman Chris Carrel. Federal Way then can decide whether to join Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Raleigh, N.C., and other cities in saying hello to goats.
One problem is the neighbors on either side of the Anissipour home in the 108-residence Brittany Lane at Regency Woods private community, which describes itself as “a quiet neighborhood where pride of homeownership is apparent.”
Said Pamela Maas, “I have lived next to them almost 11 years, and it has been a battle with them I’d say for nine of them. Let me put it this way. She’s the only neighbor I think about daily, because I’m reminded of her animals.”
With the second goat gone, Maas said, “It still smells out there, but not as bad. The smell was really bad, flies, urine, feces. It smells like the barnyard at the Puyallup Fair.”
Said Giselle Blanton, the neighbor on the other side of the Anissipour house, “I don’t feel she should have the right to chase me away from home and neighborhood.
“I don’t feel I can sell my home because she has brought down property values. If somebody went to our master suite and saw her backyard, they’d turn and run.”
On a recent visit to their home, Ava and Kelly Anissipour showed off their home, backyard and pets.
The home and backyard are cleaned up, although the lawn showed burn spots from pet urine. The home was tidy and had a faint odor of the enzyme used for pet cleanups.
Yes, they cleaned that morning, but if the smell was so prevalent, one cleanup wouldn’t get rid of it all, Kelly said.
The mom was a stockbroker, then started a massage school so she could have better hours after her divorce when Ava was 3.
Kelly tears up when talking about the complaints from her next-door neighbors and visit from animal services.
“I’m done. I wish I could sell my property and get property where no one would bother us,” she says, but she is underwater on her house.
About having pygmy goats as pets, the mom says, “Believe me, this was not my idea. I’m allergic to goats. I paid $2,000 to a naturopath to get over allergies to goats.”
She tells of asthma attacks and puffed-up eyes. Kelly says she can tolerate the pygmy goats they own because they’re bathed frequently.
But when she takes her daughter to a goat show, Kelly says, she takes an inhaler.
Ava is asked why she’d keep goats, knowing her mother’s allergic reaction.
“I love them too much,” she says.
Says the mom, “Her passion is goats.”
Ava says that since she was 3, when she saw her first goats on a family trip, she wanted one. The mom promised one when Ava turned 9 and kept her word.
Lillypad is the goat still in the home. She weighs 40 pounds and sleeps with Ava, resting her head on Ava’s leg.
At 4 each morning, Ava says, she wakes up and takes Lillypad outside to do her business.
Lillypad got classified as a companion animal because the mom says two things happened in her daughter’s life. Ava’s grandfather, “a father figure,” died. Plus there was the divorce.
“She had a hard time,” Kelly says about Ava. The goat calmed her down, she says.
The second goat, Juju, arrived as a foster goat baby in February. She now weighs 15 pounds.
The mom and daughter say they couldn’t let Juju go because Lillypad “really loved her.”
And so Ava’s quest to change the Federal Way code ensued.
If she does get to have two goats?
Says neighbor Giselle Blanton, “I hope rational people are the ones making decisions. We just want our neighbors to be law-abiding citizens and be good citizens. They’re not right now.”