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Emotional Support Zoning

Every so often, an issue in local government comes along that has never been seen before. Such is the case in Warren County, which may become one of the first municipalities in Pennsylvania to enact a new “emotional support zoning” ordinance.


The issue stems from a local family's request to allow them to have goats on their property that would otherwise be prohibited under the current zoning laws. The family had been found in violation for having several of the farm animals on their property. If Warren County moves forward with the new “emotional support” zoning, it would be only the second municipality in the commonwealth to have such a zoning ordinance in place. Zoning officials across the state are watching this unfold in anticipation of similar requests from their residents.


The county weighed a couple of options to help address the family’s needs: Option 1 was the enactment of an emotional support animal ordinance. Option 2 was a proposed new section of the existing zoning ordinance for the non-commercial keeping of livestock. The county already had a similar ordinance pertaining to backyard chickens on the books. In either case, the primary issue for the county was the current 150-foot setback requirement for goats. While county officials were sympathetic to the family’s needs, they were not in agreement regarding the potential zoning changes.


It’s fair to ask whether a change for one property owner could open up a Pandora’s box for other similar zoning requests. After all, we see a multitude of animals considered emotional support animals. Simply ask the airline industry about such critters. They have witnessed pigs, ducks, ponies, turkey, and kangaroos, just to name a few. If planning officials are not careful, it could become far more difficult to locate a home that isn't affected by certain animals within close proximity. That’s when neighbor disputes occur, tempers flare and feathers get ruffled. The importance of this decision cannot be overstated, and the potential consequences should be carefully considered.


We recommend exercising caution when considering zoning changes that could have wider impact than intended. Be sure to engage professional, such as Keystone Municipal Solutions, who can guide you through your options.  


As always, "fire this thing up," and get ready for those emotional support goats, pigs and chickens that may soon be your next-door neighbors.

don’t know unless you ask!


 About the Author

David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 33 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.

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