ELK RIDGE — A 13-year-old Elk Ridge girl decided to play her "Ace" with the city's planning commission and has apparently garnered a winning hand.
At the urging of Brittany Anderson, the commission has approved an ordinance revision that would allow residents to keep miniature horses and is recommending the City Council follow suit.
For Anderson, that means her 2-year-old miniature named Ace will likely have an eviction order commuted and be allowed to continue residing at the Anderson home.
Anderson said the family was unaware of a city ordinance prohibiting the keeping of horses in residential areas when Ace joined the family. She and her father had asked their neighbors if they had any objections before she bought the nearly 34-inch-tall horse. A year after she acquired Ace, someone complained to the city and the Andersons were told to remove the pet from the family home.
Mike Brockbank, who lives across town from the Andersons, ran into a similar problem.
Brockbank bought his six daughters a black miniature, complete withcarriage. The Brockbanks, who have 11 children and one on the way, believed getting the tiny horse would be a good way to teach the girls, ages 2 to 15, about responsibility. But when a neighbor complained, they, too, were asked to board the horse elsewhere.
Anderson decided to take the issue to city leaders who, after considering her arguments, drafted an ordinance that will allow keeping miniature horses (most are smaller than a Great Dane) in residential zones.
The City Council is expected to review and approve the ordinance in an upcoming meeting.
The only dissenting vote to the planning commission recommendation came from chairman Ray Brown. Brown said the horse owners were asking for forgiveness when they should have asked for permission before getting the horses, according to the minutes from the meeting.
"We're not creating an ordinance (just) to legalize these (the Anderson and Brockbank) horses," Mayor Vernon Fritz said, though he conceded adopting the ordinance will have that effect.
While the horses will now fall under the pet category in city ordinances, the rules for keeping them are more strict than those for dogs and cats.
Horse owners will be required to have a minimum lot size of a third acre surrounded by a 6-foot fence. Corrals will have to be at least 25 feet away from a neighbor's property line and 50 feet away from a neighboring home.
The horses will also have to be listed with the American Miniature Horse Registry, and homeowners will be allowed just one.
Miniature horses have been bred in Europe for more than four centuries, according to the American Miniature Horse Association. They were used in coal mines and also as elegant pets for royalty.
Miniature horses were first imported into the United States in the 1880s.
Today they are bred in America under strict standards adopted when the AMHA was formed in 1978. Miniature horses are bred for use as pets and as show horses.
They range in price from $1,500 to as much as $400,000, said Alison Elrod, AMHA marketing manager, from the Alvarado, Texas, headquarters.
"It depends on what you want to do with them," she said.