Colma may legalize tiny horses as pets 

A citizen’s complaint about a resident housing miniature horses in Colma could result in their legalization.

The Town Council on Wednesday will consider an ordinance allowing the tiny horses to be kept as pets in response to an odd situation last fall that saw Peninsula Humane Society Officer Debi DeNardi investigated for keeping miniature horses, pygmy goats and golden retrievers on her Old Mission Road property. City codes prohibit the keeping of alllivestock, including the miniatures.

Colma police investigated in response to a citizen’s complaint alleging that DeNardi was illegally breeding dogs and housing livestock on her property, but did not file charges. DeNardi, who said at the time that she had her two horses at the house only temporarily, said she has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

DeNardi’s horses, Ruler and Viggo, stand no taller than 30 inches and can weigh up to 200 pounds. As a trick, Ruler can even count, said DeNardi, who keeps the horses to show in parades and educate the county.

"They don’t plow fields, you don’t eat them and they don’t provide food," DeNardi said of considering miniature horses as livestock. "You’re not going to eat a $5,000 miniature horse."

The proposed ordinance will distinguish miniature horses from livestock, which includes swine, cattle, horses, goats, sheep and mules, and the regulations surrounding livestock.

It would limit the number to two horses and require an annual permit, a shelter to house the horses, a maximum weight of 200 pounds for each horse and that all such horses be registered by the American Miniature Horse Association or the American Miniature Horse Registry, according to a staff report. The proposed ordinance would also prohibit the horses from being kept for marketing or commercial purposes.

Possible health concerns include parasites and the spread of disease if the horse’s bedding is not properly cleaned or the 800 to 1,000 pounds of annual manure is not disposed of correctly, according to the staff report. Rodents are also attracted to the feed, requiring that its storage be regulated as well.

Colma Mayor Frossanna Vallerga backs the ordinance for several reasons, including the fact that DeNardi isn’t pursuing any kind of commercial purpose with Ruler and Viggo.

"This is nothing but good," Vallerga said. "There are dogs that are largerthan these ponies."

Colma is not the first city to reconsider their treatment of miniature livestock. Both South San Francisco and Belmont have changed their codes to allow for such exotic animals, with Belmont voting in recent years to allow up to two pygmy goats to be kept as pets at the request of one resident.

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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