Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:


Planning Commission


February 10, 2005

Staff Lead:



W. Todd Benson, Assistant Zoning Administrator


Community Development



A Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to Sections 6-102, 6-105, 15-300, and 2-512 to Allow Livestock on Parcels Smaller than 2 acres in RA, RC, RR-2, V, and R-1 Districts, to Establish Setbacks for Animal Enclosures, and to Eliminate the Definition of Commonly Accepted Pets


Topic Description:


Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance § 2-512  provides that the “[k]eeping of livestock, fowl and animals of a wild nature shall not be allowed on any lot less than two (2) acres in area.”  The proposed text amendment presents standards for allowing livestock on parcels less than two acres in size, and within specified zoning district classifications.


The text amendment would allow one animal unit of livestock per two acres in RA, RC, RR-2, and V Districts, and one-half animal unit per two acres in R-1 Districts provided such land is not in a service district.  The animal unit methodology is described in more detail in the section within this staff report entitled Limitations on Keeping of Livestock - numbers and locations. The proposed amendments would also allow keeping such animals in pens, sheds, or similar enclosures subject to a 25 foot setback in side and rear yards and out of minimum required front yards.


The amendments further require that small lots with livestock cannot be overgrazed to become an erosion or pollution problem. Finally, the proposed amendment slightly alters the rules for maintaining certain pets and amends or adopts new definitions consistent with the regulatory changes.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Consider adoption of the attached Ordinance.

Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.

Summary Staff Report:

There are 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.




Introduction – Livestock on Less Than Two Acres


At present, an individual may have unlimited livestock on his land if he has 2 acres or more.  On less than 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; and if so, how many, where, and how?


Definition of Livestock


The first 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.


This states 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 County.  Most people would be surprised to learn that their golden retriever is considered “livestock.”


The 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? 


Staff 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 fowl:


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 pound rabbits[1], 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:


a.      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.


b.      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, 35 turkeys.



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 fencing.


There is, however, 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 pets.” 


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 less.”


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.




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 or these animals probably should 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:




2.      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).


On January 13, 2005, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing.  The Board left the public hearing open and continued the matter until its next meeting.  Staff was requested to work with Board members in the interim on certain revisions.  The revisions suggested by Board members are indicated in the attached draft ordinance in red.

Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Economic Development Office

Agricultural Development Office




Proposed Text Amendment


[1] Some dwarf breeds are as small a 1˝ pounds.  The Flemish Giant is 13 to 28 pounds, with 22 pounds in common; thus, the animal unit range for rabbits is 45 to 666.  On the 1.1 acre parcel, the family could have in excess of 24 rabbits, if Fauquier County applied the “animal unit” methodology to R-1 lots.