A change to the animal control ordinance in Brownstown in early 2015 resulted in a family moving out of town to expand its number of livestock.
That, however, didn’t deter siblings Brittany and Anika Ross from raising sheep, goats, rabbits and chickens and entering some of them in 4-H shows during the Jackson County Fair.
Story continues below gallery
The sisters, who now live in Vallonia with their parents, Memorie and Scott, have collected several 4-H awards through the years. Also, Brittany is president and Anika is secretary of the Mighty Meat Goats 4-H Club, and Brittany is involved in FFA at Crothersville High School.
Once Brittany graduates next spring, she is thinking about pursuing a career as an agriculture teacher or an X-ray technician.
Anika is only going into the eighth grade at Brownstown Central Middle School, but she already knows she wants to be a veterinarian and a wildlife rehabilitator.
“As we got older and we’ve all got friends that have gotten animals, being around them made us want to be more involved, like with our FFA and 4-H stuff and being officers in the club,” said Brittany, 17. “It also helps me being at Crothersville and having animals because I can take them and show them to the town kids who don’t have them.”
Anika, 13, said if she could start studying to be a veterinarian now, she would.
“You get to help animals and get to help others who share the love of animals that you have,” she said.
In mid-2014, when the Ross family lived on Sugar Street in Brownstown, a neighbor approached the town council about odors and flies being a problem in the area because of the family’s animals.
When the town’s animal control ordinance was strengthened and went into effect in early 2015, it involved domestic livestock, including cattle, swine, sheep, goats, roosters, geese, ducks, turkeys and peacocks.
Town residents with livestock were allowed to keep the animals if they agreed to register them with the town. No one could start raising livestock in town limits once the ordinance was enacted.
When the initial complaint was made, the Ross family had raised goats for three years and had nine at the time. They also had rabbits in a barn and a pig they raised for Anika to show at the fair.
“We at first tried to put (the pig) on the side of the hill, but we had so much rain that year, we knew it was going to cause a smell, so we put down concrete,” Brittany said. “Then every day, we had to go down and clean the concrete, so it wasn’t like you could smell it. It wasn’t noticeable.”
The pig became a pet for Anika.
“When I opened his door, he would run up the hill and sit in the pool and wait for me to climb in with him,” she said. “We played soccer together, we wrestled together, and he got on the goat stand with the goats.”
After the county fair that summer, the family sold most of their animals, including the pig, at the livestock auction.
The sisters planned on expanding their animal count for the 2015 fair, and they realized the town ordinance was going to change, so the family moved to Vallonia in the fall of 2014.
Brittany said it would have been better if her family and the neighbor could have talked things out instead of him going straight to the town council. With the ordinance, she said it would have been better to limit the number of animals residents can have instead of how it was done.
“I think that would have been a better way of approaching it rather than just saying, ‘Nope, whatever you have is what you have. You’re done,’” she said.
Even after the Ross family moved to Vallonia, they attended several town council meetings to show officials the success the sisters had had in 4-H and how important animals are in their lives.
“We wanted it to still be fair for everybody else. Just because we moved, we didn’t want to give up on everybody else because there was more than us that had animals in town,” Brittany said.
“Not every kid is meant to play football. Not every kid is meant to play basketball,” Memorie said. “You have your in-town kids that might be suited for an animal and FFA. You just have to be able to support each kid in what they want and what they need to do.”
The girls’ parents talked to them about giving up the animals, but they didn’t want to.
Once the family moved to Vallonia, they still owned their Brownstown home, so they were paying bills for both places. Brittany also turned down a trip to Florida with the school band because she was determined to keep showing animals.
“Between me and Anika, we were both willing to give that up to have our animals,” Brittany said.
In the end, she said it has worked out because the family has been able to expand its livestock. They now have 16 goats, six sheep, four rabbits and seven chickens.
“I think it has taught us to be more responsible,” Brittany said. “You have to take care of them morning and night.”
For Anika, having animals has been therapeutic.
“We have this one goat, she likes to talk to you, she likes to ‘Baa,’” she said. “I sometimes like to talk back. It’s a therapy goat, so she’s like our little buddy, and I feel connected with her.”
While winning awards at the 4-H shows is nice, that’s not a priority for the Ross sisters.
“We don’t have the dollar signs in front of our animals. We prep them like we think we should, and we raise them,” Brittany said. “If we win, yay. If not, it’s OK because it’s the life lessons that we’re getting out of it.”
Anika said she encourages 4-H’ers to do their best.
“Don’t think about anybody else,” she said. “Focus on your animal and wanting to get that oomph behind you to get where you want to go.”
Memorie and Scott are proud of their daughters’ efforts with animals over the years.
“Mom and Dad are just their cheer team,” Memorie said. “We just keep rooting them on whatever direction they want to go.”