two separate but related issues: (1) whether to allow
livestock on parcels containing less than two acres of land;
and (2) how to regulate pets.
LIVESTOCK ON LESS THAN 2 ACRES
Introduction – Livestock on Less Than Two Acres
an individual may have unlimited livestock on his land if he
has two (2) acres or more. Less than two (2) acres, a
person may not have any livestock. The question debated at
the Planning Commission was should Fauquier County allow
livestock on smaller lots? If so, how many, where, and
Definition of Livestock
issue to address is the definition of “livestock.” The
Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance has a clumsy definition:
Animals, especially farm animals, raised for use, profit, or
enjoyment including horses, ponies, bison (American
buffalo), cattle, sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas, and other
similar domesticated animals.
that any animal raised for pleasure is livestock, although
the final clause suggests that only domesticated animals are
included. This broad definition is unique to Fauquier.
Most people would be surprised to learn that their golden
retriever is considered “livestock.”
statutory understanding of “livestock” is further
complicated by the definition of “commonly accepted pets.”
“Commonly accepted pets” include “rabbits,…domestic
chickens, [and] duck(sic.) and geese under two (2) months
old.” Statutorily, when is a chicken livestock and when is
it a commonly accepted pet?
suggests that Fauquier County use a broadly accepted
definition of livestock: domestic animals commonly raised
for food or fiber – and then make sure that we include some
of the animals on the margin of the definition - horses,
ponies, mules, donkeys, bison, alpacas, llamas, rabbits, and
Livestock: Domestic animals commonly raised for food
or fiber, including, but not limited to, horses, ponies,
mules, donkeys, bison, alpacas, llamas, rabbits, and fowl.
Limitations on Keeping of Livestock - numbers and locations
On September 22, 2004, staff met with the Agricultural
Extension Office and the 4-H Extension Office. Keith
Dickinson, Agricultural Extension Agent, indicated that, on
average, two acres of Fauquier County land could
economically and environmentally support 1.5 animal units.
An animal unit is a regulatory standard based upon animal
size (1,000 pounds) and waste production. One animal unit
is roughly equivalent to 0.66 dairy cows, 1 cow, 1 horse,
2.5 swine (sows), 2 swine (boars), 5 sheep, 6 goats, 3
llamas, 3.75 rams, 35 turkeys, or 75 hens.
Because land on any residential lot is taken up by
driveways, the house, and accessory uses, Mr. Dickinson
opined that limiting livestock to 1 animal unit per 2 acres
was supportable from a business and environmental
standpoint. Thus, on a 1.9 acre lot, a family could have no
cows or horses. They could have 4 sheep. On a one acre
lot, the land could support 1 swine (sow or boar), 2 sheep
or 17 turkeys.
If the threshold cap in R-1 districts is 0.5 animal units
per two acres, a 1.9 acre lot could have two goats, 35
chickens, or lesser combinations of the two. Assuming 12
a family on 1.1 acres in an R-1 district could have 22
rabbits. On an R-1, 0.9 acre lot, a person would be limited
to 7 turkeys, 16 chickens, 1 goat, 1 sheep, 1 alpaca, 1 emu,
2 rhea, or a combination thereof.
Utilizing the animal unit methodology, an appropriate
ordinance amendment would look as follows:
1. Keeping of livestock,
fowl and animals of a wild
nature shall not be allowed outdoors on any
lot less than two (2) acres in area except as follows:
Livestock are allowed in RA, RC, RR-2, and V
districts provided such property is not in a service
district. Such livestock shall be limited to 1 animal unit,
or fraction thereof, per two acres of land.
Livestock are allowed in R-1 districts provided such
property is not in a service district. Such livestock shall
be limited to .5 animal unit, or fraction thereof, per two
acres of land.
This language was further amended by the Planning Commission
to require that the land not be over grazed or cause erosion
and pollution problems.
Adding a definition of “animal units” to the Zoning
Ordinance also is appropriate:
ANIMAL UNIT: An animal unit is the equivalent of 1,000
pounds of live animal weight. Thus, a 1,200 pound dairy
cow would be 1.2 animal units and a 200 pound hog would be
.2 animal units. For purposes of this ordinance, the
following shall be deemed equivalent to one animal unit at
maturity: 1 cow, 1 bull, 1 horse, 2.5 sows (swine), 2 boars
(swine), 5 ewes (sheep), 3.75 rams(sheep), 6 goats, 3
llamas, 6 alpacas, 3 ostrich, 7 emus, 11 rheas, 75 chickens,
This definition makes clear that an animal unit is a fixed
mathematical amount, while also establishing a chart useful
for general accuracy and guidance.
Standards for housing
The Fauquier County Code, at Sections 4-2 and 4-3, prohibits
the keeping of livestock in any way that allows them to
stray onto adjacent public or private property.
Accordingly, nothing further must be done to require proper
However, there is nothing that appears to allow containment
houses or pens for livestock under two acres. There are
standards for “doghouses, pens and other similar structures”
but these only apply to the “housing of commonly accepted
Staff recommends amending Section 6-102 (Permitted Accessory
Use) by adding a new permitted accessory use: “Houses,
sheds, pens and other similar structures for the housing of
livestock when such animals are permitted on two acres or
Staff further recommends appropriate set back standards. The
appropriate place to do this would be § 6-105 (Accessory Use
Location Regulations) by adding a new subsection 7 and
renumbering the remaining subsection. The new subsection
would read as follows: “Livestock houses, sheds, pens
and other similar structures on lots 2 acres or less shall
be set back 25 feet from the side and rear lot lines and not
permitted in any required minimum front yard.”
Staff originally recommended a 50 foot setback; the Planning
Commission changed the setback to 25 feet.
II. COMMONLY ACCEPTED PETS
At present, Fauquier County allows “commonly accepted pets”
provided they are kept indoors. As noted, the definition is
problematic in that some livestock are included. When is a
chicken regulated as a pet and when is it livestock? The
definition of commonly accepted pets is complicated by §
2-512 which requires commonly accepted pets to be kept
indoors; some of these animals should probably not be kept
indoors – chickens, geese, ducks, and rabbits. Finally, the
definition is at cross purposes with Fauquier County Code §
4-29 through § 4-35. The zoning definition delineates
permitted pets whereas Fauquier County Code § 4-29 through §
4-35 delineates many more animals which are regulated (wild
and exotic) but apparently not allowed through zoning.
Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance § 2-512 also prohibits the
keeping of wild animals on less than two acres. Presumably,
therefore, wild animals may be kept on two acres or more.
The definition of “commonly accepted pets” serves little
purpose and can be deleted altogether. Under this option,
Subsection (2) of § 2-512 should be amended as follows:
Except for livestock and dogs as provided in
Subsection 3 below, the keeping of
commonly accepted pets
animals shall be allowed as an accessory use
on any lot provided such pets animals are for
personal use and enjoyment, and not for any commercial
purpose, provided further that such animals ,
birds, or fowl are confined to the interior of the
dwelling or other permitted accessory buildings or are
otherwise under the direct personal control of the owner.
On October 28, 2004, the Planning Commission voted
unanimously to schedule this proposed text amendment for
public hearing. On December 8, 2004, the Fauquier County
Planning Commission held a public hearing and voted
unanimously to recommend to the Board of Supervisors
adoption of this ordinance.
It also needs to be noted that two residents provided
written comments: Mr. Ray Williams, who offered concerns
regarding land carrying capacity, runoff and erosion issues
for livestock, and a separate issue regarding hogs; and Mr.
and Mrs. Grimsley raised concerns with the existing
ordinance which limits the zoning locations where children
can have the opportunity and responsibility to raise
animals, for example, through the 4-H programs. Their
letters are on file, are more expansive than this summary,
and are available for review upon request in the Department
of Community Development (Planning or Zoning Offices).