December 01, 2010

Goat Grazing Company Accused Of Neglect

The co-owner of Goats R Us, a California based company that uses goats to clear brush and weeds has been charged with neglect of his goats. Egon Oyarzun and his employee Wilfredo Felix have both been ordered to stand trial for the alleged neglect of some of the company's goats after animal control officers reported that some goats in the flock located near the old Oak Knoll Navel Hospital site in Oakland was malnourished and not cared for. Goats R Us was hired to reduce brush at the site.

The goats in question were located in a courtyard of the 167 acre site. Reportedly when the animal control officers arrived on scene they smelled decaying flesh and found multiple dead goats and four very sick goats which were impounded. Many of the other goats in the courtyard were sick from "parasites, pneumonia and other diseases," said Oakland animal services director Megan Webb.

Terri Oyarzun defended her husband Egon and their company. She says that the goats were senior goats, weanlings and rescues separated for extra care. The Oyarzuns depended on their herders to care for the goats, Wilfredo Felix was in charge of them. He was a newer employee who despite having prior experience did not follow protocol and notify them of the problem, according to Terri Oyarzun.

So how did this happen? According to the Goats R Us website they have been in business for over 15 years and goats in their herd are never sold for any reason. They say the goats are their "buddies" and that all of their goats are supplemented year round, wormed three times a year and vaccinated.

I do not know all of the facts of the case, only what I have been able to research online so any thoughts I have on it are merely my opinions based on what I have read. Some articles have stated that the Oyarzun's own about 1,000 goats, working at different sites in the area. Our own farm had a mere 58 goats on it this past spring and so I know how much care and time even a small herd takes. I reduced my goat herd by quite a bit before winter this year to help ensure every goat on the farm gets the best of care and attention they deserve.

It is only speculation on my part but perhaps the success of Goats R Us has been a bit of its downfall. Maybe they got too big, with too many goats and were forced to rely too heavily on hired help to properly over see the care of their own animals like they should. Now I am certainly not saying a very large goat herd can't be well cared for. There are many large herds of healthy goats; but the owners of those animals do know that no matter what their hired help does or does not do, ultimately the buck stops with them as the owner. They are responsible to make sure those animals are cared for properly.

One merely has to read the 70 and growing number of negative comments posted by angry readers of one article posted on the care2 website about the charges against Goats R Us to know that this case has left an ugly, black mark on the business of goat landscaping in some people's minds. Many people are quick to forget that as awful as this is, cases like this are the exception and not the rule. It is truly a shame because up until now goats for brush control has garnered only positive media attention. Everyone read about and loved the "Google goats" and enjoyed the segment about landscaping goats on The Colbert Report. When done responsibly it is a beneficial, environmentally friendly practice for both the goats and the land, while reducing the danger of wildfires for people living in the area. It can also be educational for children in urban areas who have maybe never even seen a goat and don't know anything about them.

My heart goes out to those unfortunate goats who got caught up in this situation, it is very sad indeed. Farmers and owners of these types of businesses involving animals have a responsibility to make sure their animals are always well cared for and treated humanely. Not only for the sake of the animals which are dependent upon us for their needs and who deserve to have a healthy, well cared for life, but for our own future as well. The world is watching and it is our duty to educate the public about all the good that most of these businesses and farmers do and how much we really do care about and for our animals.

** The picture is not of or related to the Goats R Us case. This is a picture of one of my own goats demonstrating why they are so good at brush and weed control**


Aelwyn said...

This is soooo sad. :( Like you said, they got too big and couldn't (or wouldn't) supervise those who were caring for the goats at each location.

No animal should have to live or die that way.

Pricilla said...

It is very sad for the goats. I know how much care my 8 take and can only imagine 1000.

Grandpa said...

Oh dear...this is quite depressing, isn't it, for those poor animals to have to suffer. If the co thinks their herd is too large to handle then they should donate it to those in need or are prepared to care for the animals. I hope they'll come to their senses soon...

Teresa said...

It's such a shame their success can lead to this. You've done a great job of outlining the issue. I agree, it ultimately comes down to the owner taking responsibility.

Kristine said...

My herd never got past 35, but with just myself taking care of everybody it was a handful. I had dairy goats as a 4-H project, so over half needed milking twice a day. I cut back the next year because they weren't getting the care i thought they deserved. I was lucky finding homes for them with local 4-H groups. I don't know these people's whole situation, but never selling or re-homing any of your goats is sort of irresponsible if you can't adequately care for them. Same goes for any pet or livestock. They sound like they got a bit overwhelmed. With goats it's easy to do. ;) I still miss mine to this day.