In a fight to keep her emotional support partner, a Libby resident is taking her qualms with the city to court.
The City of Libby offered a plea bargain. Pay $100, get rid of Cinnamon and it can all be over. Janice Bailey was not having it, “I told them no.”
With a strict diet of alfalfa, mixed grains and molasses, Cinnamon is not your typical pet. She is a Nigerian dwarf goat and a close friend of her beloved owner, Bailey.
“All they’re doing is seeing how far I’ll go,” said Bailey.
For years, the city has not allowed farm animals, such as goats, inside its boundaries. Bailey was not aware.
One morning, the police stopped by. They were responding to a complaint. A complaint about Cinnamon.
Bailey was unpleasantly surprised. She had been living in Libby with Cinnamon for over a year, and never had any trouble.
Cinnamon is potty trained, does not try to escape, and is smaller than a pitbull, she said. Cinnamon also thinks she is a dog and is a rather picky eater.
“She don’t bother nothing,” said Bailey. The neighborhood dogs make more noise.
She is always cleaned up after and she never stinks, said Bailey. The neighbors all know Cinnamon, everybody knows Cinnamon.
“We always keep up on pictures,” said Bailey while scrolling through photos on her phone. She keeps her coworkers up to date with photos as well.
Losing her would be like losing a kid, she said.
“They figure if they allow me to have an emotional support goat, that everybody’s gonna want one. Everybody ain’t gonna want a goat,” she said.
A helping hoof
Bailey has been down on her luck recently. She will soon be laid off due to Shokpo’s closing and broke her ankle on ice this winter.
Retiring at Shopko was the plan, she said. The business closing feels like a sucker punch.
Just getting the walking boot from the orthopedic was $1,000, she said. Asking for rides and help all the time is stressful.
Bailey also struggles with high blood pressure and takes prescription medication to calm herself.
“It’s just a lot of stuff, hittin’ you all at once,” she said.
About a year ago, Bailey’s dad passed away. She helped take care of him till the end.
There is nothing one can do when congestive heart failure takes over, she said.
Her husband, Mike Bailey, is struggling with the same condition.
A note from her therapist labels Cinnamon as “necessary” for Bailey’s “emotional/mental health.”
Her mother, Noreen Garrison, agrees.
“If that goat’s taken away from her, she will be in [a] terrible emotional state,” she said.
Cinnamon really does calm her down, she said. Bailey initially got Cinnamon for emotional support when she was taking care of her dad.
“She’ll stay, right close to her when she’s having a problem,” Garrison said. Bailey has already been to the hospital twice and has come close to having a stroke.
Bailey understands Cinnamon is a farm animal, but to her, Cinnamon is a lot more.
“I just have trouble sleeping at night, worrying about if I have to get rid of her,” she said.
Facing the city
Brent Teske, Libby mayor, said there is no legal standard for goats, pet snakes, rats, chickens or anything similar.
But, “people try stuff all the time,” he said.
Unfortunately, for Bailey, goats are not listed as a service animal, he said.
“There’s a big difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal,” he said.
Teske highly doubts Bailey will win in court. The ordinance has been in effect for a long time, he said.
“This emotional support stuff, I don’t know what to think about it anymore,” he said.
Scott Kessel, Libby Police Department chief, said the department found out about Cinnamon because someone made a complaint.
Officers are not driving around looking for goats, they have enough to do, he said.
The officers notified Bailey of the violation, gave her time to comply before returning and later cited her, he said.
“We can’t pick and choose which ordinances to enforce,” he said.
Deciding if one ordinance is more important than another is not the police department’s call, he said.
Kessel said he has goats himself, but he lives outside of the city limits.
Like anything else, if someone does not like a city ordinance, there is a process in place for change, he said. The city formerly had an ordinance against pitbulls, and there have been some parking ordinance changes as well.
“I’ve seen it happen. Things have changed,” he said.
If Bailey does not appear for a court date to address the issue, after receiving a letter from the judge, she potentially could have a warrant issued for her arrest, he said.
A jury trial with the city is set for May 23.
Bailey thinks the city is just being petty and she does not plan on losing the case.
Having to go to court for a service animal is a waste of time and money, it is not a big deal, she said.
“I’m almost 60, I’m no criminal, but they act like I am,” she said, with tears in her eyes.