MONTICELLO — Administrators and parents at Metamorphosis Montessori School are urging the city to amend its animal ordinance to allow them to keep two sheep that have been housed at the school since spring.
"At the Montessori school, we use animals as part of the curriculum, so children learn empathy and responsibility from caring for animals," said Cody Sanantonio, administrator of the facility.
But city codes generally do not allow live swine, sheep, goats or cattle within city limits. When the city was informed there were sheep at Montessori, officials told the school they had to go.
In pleading its case at Monday's city council meeting, friend of the school Michael Doerr asked the city to consider amending the ordinance, and to allow the sheep to stay until a firm decision is made.
He pointed to inconsistencies, such as the rule that horses and mules can be kept within 75 feet of the owner's home, while fowl must be at least 75 feet away.
"It's kind of a funny ordinance. It needs to be cleaned up, and we hope it can be amended to allow two sheep for educational purposes," said Doerr.
Sanantonio said the school has had goats at differing times during its 31-year history in town, and thought they were following the rules due to exceptions for educational institutions.
But that exception applies only to "dangerous animals" such as reptiles, and not to livestock.
Superintendent of City Services Floyd Allsop said amending the ordinance will not be simple.
"It's easy to say 'let's look at our animal ordinance,' but it will be difficult once we get into it and start making decisions," he said.
"You have rules. There are all kinds of rules you have to follow. It just so happens this is the only time we are aware of that someone has had sheep within a residential zone," added Allsop.
Council members agreed to allow the sheep to stay at the school while they look at the ordinance, which will be done at a work session Aug. 6. A vote on any amendments could come at the Aug. 13 council meeting.