“Sir, what exactly do you have back there?”
We were two days away from a cross-country move when the officer pulled us over. His attention quickly shifted from the minor infraction to our curious cargo, a pair of Nigerian Dwarf goats happily munching away on a pile of hay stacked in their extra-large dog crate.
Backyard farms and small-scale urban agriculture are booming. Many young professionals are eschewing more traditional pets for hardier stock such as chickens and goats (the Internet’s love of all things goat-related has helped the trend along). But a boom in goat ownership has led many a backyard-farm enthusiast to face a daunting question: What if I have to move?
For us, the answer was simple: The goats were coming with us, across 3,000 miles of US highway.
In 2013, my wife and I relocated from Beaufort, North Carolina to San Francisco, California for work. Two years later, we made the reverse trip back across the continent to Virginia. Our two Nigerian Dwarf goats rode right along with us.
Before we left California, we needed to certify that the goats were healthy, which is why we were being pulled over in Napa County with such unconventional cargo. Luna and Hermione were on their way to the large animal vet for a pre-trip checkup to update their vaccines and get their travel papers. States like California, and many others, particularly in the West, have mandatory livestock checks at the port of entry. California is especially stringent and will check your vehicle as you cruise over Donner Pass.
“You bring them into the hotel with you?” the officer asks. This is by far the most common question we hear. Everyone wants to know where you stay when you have goats in tow.
Driving a small herd across the country is not as simple as crating a dog or cat. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a chain hotel that will accept your “pets.” You can try to make the trip in one long drive, but that prospect is miserable for both two- and four-legged passengers. Goats and humans need a break, and no one likes sleeping in a car for two days or more. In a pinch, you can camp on Bureau of Land Management or National Forest land, but there’s another way to travel with goats, and it comes thanks to your equestrian friends: Horse motels.
Our goats love riding in cars. As soon as they see the door open, they come bounding out of their pen and leap up into the backseat.
Yes, there is a network of stables and bed and breakfasts that caters to those traveling with horses. They can be found at websites like horsemotels.com and horsetrip.com. In two transcontinental drives, we haven’t encountered a single one that turned down road trippers with goats. As a nice bonus, every one of them has been less expensive and nicer than the nearby chain hotels. With a little extra planning, you can cross the country in style.
You may be wondering how the goats handle all this. Are you doomed to endless hours of unsettlingly human-like yelling? Not in our experience. Our goats love riding in cars. As soon as they see the door open, they come bounding out of their pen and leap up into the backseat. They never run that fast for anything other than food. As far as passengers go, the goats were quieter than dogs and required far fewer stops than the humans driving them. A half-hour break every three to five hours was enough to keep them happy.
A bit of planning, understanding state and federal requirements for transporting livestock and a comfortable set-up can make the cross-country trek with a pair of stubborn goats relatively painless.
Just try not to get pulled over.