Around Town: Do alpacas toe the legal line?

January 23, 2013|By Anita S. Brenner

Ever since last week's breaking news story about Sandra Wallace and Michael Frankel's alpacas, intelligent La Cañadans everywhere have wondered: Why can't we have alpacas in La Cañada?

Wallace and Frankel are practicing physicians who live in La Cañada. In their spare time, “like others who have discovered the satisfaction of raising and breeding alpacas,” they are breeding alpacas (“The sound and the furry,” Jan. 17).

Unfortunately for our local elementary school students, including those desperately searching for science fair projects, there won't be any local field trips to see the Wallace-Frankel alpacas.


That's because the Wallace-Frankel alpacas do not reside in La Cañada. They are boarded at a ranch in Agua Dulce, 38 miles from La Cañada. The best winter route is west on the 210 to the I-5 North (toward Sacramento), then to State Route 14 North (toward Palmdale/Lancaster). It's a 30- to 40-minute trip, depending on traffic.

More important than route is the question: “Why can't La Cañada doctors raise La Cañada alpacas in La Cañada?”

Are alpacas, like the working slot machine, banned?

The answer should lie in the La Cañada Municipal Code. A keyword search of the word “alpaca” in the Municipal Code gives no search results. None of our local ordinances specifically mentions the alpaca, the llama or the cuy. (The latter is a hamster-like delicacy in Ecuador, otherwise unrelated to the alpaca or the llama, but included here for clarity.)

The code does regulate “livestock” in two provisions.

Section 11.32.080 provides that not more than “two horses, donkeys, mules, cows, steers, other similar animals, sheep or goats which are not for the personal use of the occupant of the parcel may be kept, maintained or otherwise boarded on the parcel…” if for personal use.

Apart from the personal-use issue, the seminal question is whether alpacas are “similar animals” to horses, donkeys, mules, cows, steers, sheep or goats.

Some may feel that the alpaca is like a cow. Others may disagree.

The second reference to “livestock” in the city's municipal code is in section 11.32.060 (“Livestock and farm fowl permitted as an accessory use”), which sets limits on the number of “horses, donkeys, mules, cows, steers, sheep, goats, and other hoofed animals,” but makes no reference to alpacas.

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