'Goats R Us' Fingers New Employee For Animal Cruelty Rap
Company co-owner Terri Oyarzun tells SF Weekly the problems are all the fault of one goat of an employee -- herder Wilfredo Felix, who will stand trial alongside Oyarzun's husband, Egon.
Oyarzun says Felix, who'd been on the job only two weeks, failed to properly look after 50 goats who'd been isolated from the company's 1,000-plus animals because they were sickly and "not quite thriving." When animal control officers and police arrived on the scene in October, 10 of those animals were dead and the others were described as "malnourished" -- though Oyarzun claims they'd been separated from the herd precisely because they were sickly, and have since been nursed back to health.
The co-owner claimed Felix had years of experience as a herder and had gone through weeks of training but, inexplicably, shirked his duties. When asked if he had been fired she replied, "Oh yes. Why do you even ask that?"
SF Weekly was unable to contact Felix. He is currently incarcerated at Santa Rita Jail on $50,000 bail. Authorities there wouldn't pass a message to him without the approval of his lawyer and the Alameda County Public Defender's office hasn't assigned him an attorney -- and was not willing to accommodate any attempts to communicate with their client-to-be.
Oyarzun claimed the afflicted goats were kept in an isolated pen off the beaten path from the rest of the grazing land at the former Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland. She claimed that her animals -- used for weeding and brush reduction -- are never sold off or slaughtered, even when they're not able to "work" productively. "If you see a goat out one year, you'll see it out again. We love our animals." She said something like this "would never happen again," as she's hired an independent overseer to keep an eye on all of the individual herders and their charges.
This is not the company's first brush with misfortune. In 2007, a truck transporting goats overturned in Marin, and 243 animals died -- most of them via asphyxiation. Last year, the Oyarzuns were dinged $53,000 after Lehman Brothers collapsed.
When asked how the charges of animal cruelty have affected business, Oyarzun said this is the off season, and that hasn't shaken out yet.
"We've built up our reputation in the community, but it only takes one incident," she says. "We're hoping our regular clients know this was an isolated thing."