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Riverside Chat: No goats allowed, or bears for that matter

This column’s genesis is my day off a few weeks ago, when I went to Kroger to pick up a magazine I’d been wanting to read for some time. It’s called Modern Farmer and had a goat on the cover.

I tweeted a picture of the magazine’s cover, and quickly found that it entertained several Sauk Valley Media newsroom members. The goat on the cover sparked a (maybe) half-joking conversation about getting one as a pet.

Where could I buy one? Is that even possible?

I’m sure I could find one to buy somewhere. There are, after all, farms all around the Sauk Valley. But it turns out owning a goat is illegal in Sterling and Rock Falls.

And you can’t own a bear, badger, alligator, gorilla, or whatever a Gila monster is, among the many animals both city codes forbid. 

Needless to say SVM Video Editor Angel Sierra and myself were crushed when our dreams of owning goats were dashed. There was some glimmer of hope, though. We’re still allowed to own a miniature pot-bellied pig.

I know all this because, to find out, I spent some time digitally flipping through the pages of both Rock Falls and Sterling’s city codes. They’re both hosted on a website called Municode.

There’s a lot of information to be found digging through city ordinances.

A recent Sterling City Council meeting overturned a Planning Commission petition denial. Sterling Commons Development Inc. wanted some of its business tenants to have two signs on their corner units.

While I haven’t read through every section of each city’s code, I did take a look through Sterling’s sign code. It might be one of the longest the city has.

There are definitions of signs to go along with diagrams of signs. There are tables dictating what types of signs are allowed in what types of areas.

My point in this column, and there is one, is that, while you may never need to know whether it’s illegal to own a goat or Gila monster, which is a venomous lizard native to the Southwest, it’s good to know that you can find the answer a few clicks away.

Sauk Valley Media reporter Matt Mencarini covers government and happenings in Sterling and Rock Falls. He can be reached at or at 815-625-3600, ext. 529. Follow him on Twitter:

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