money-mad mooks in Mo make misery
- The `Goat Lady' vs. hay dealers
Douglas County woman says sheriff, merchants stole "pets"; they say
she should've paid her bills.
By Eric Eckert
July 7, 2002
Ava Debbie Kaupert greets visitors to her Douglas County goat farm
with a hesitant smile and a double-barreled shotgun.
The gun is unloaded, but two shotgun shells sit snug in the pocket of
her cut-off denim shorts. The former resident of California and
Arizona, who's owned a small farm here the past three years, says
she's taking no chances.
"I'm scared to death of these people around here," Kaupert
says. "We're getting outta here as soon as we make sure the goats are
moved and safe."
Kaupert known in Douglas County and on Internet chat rooms as
the "Goat Lady" had 69 of her estimated 80 animals removed by
Sheriff Gary Koop on June 17 to settle a $851 debt to a local hay
dealer. Acting on a court order, Koop supervised the removal of the
goats, which were to be sold at auction to pay Kaupert's debt to
Harold and Lyndell Lakey.
The Goat Lady used the Internet to tell her story and in one night
she raised enough money to pay the debt and reclaim her animals from
a livestock auction in Green Forest, Ark. But she's angry that she
and her 23-year-old son had to live through the "nightmare" of
watching her "babies" loaded onto a trailer and hauled away.
She says the Lakeys and the sheriff could have taken one of her
vehicles for payment, rather than taking the goats.
The sheriff counters that vehicles on her property were "junk," and
that "the court order says livestock" was to be removed for payment.
Lyndell Lakey adds that he didn't need this hassle.
"I didn't want them goats," he says. "I just wanted the money ... All
it amounts to is she didn't pay her bill."
A passion for goats
Kaupert's love of goats began more than a decade ago when she and her
late husband, Lynn, then living in Arizona, saved four of the animals
from a petting zoo that was going out of business.
"The owner of the petting zoo told us the goats were going to be
barbecued," Kaupert says. "So we built a pen and he gave us four of
them to keep. We had no idea what was starting."
The Kauperts, along with their son, Matthew, raised goats for several
years until Lynn's death in 1995. It was at that point the goats
One particular goat, Georgie, had a childlike relationship with the
family, Kaupert says.
"He was there for me when my husband died," Kaupert explains. "If a
goat can be a child, it was Georgie. When he died a couple years ago,
I had him cremated and his horns mounted. He was my baby."
While dozens of goats graze and play in the pasture, several are
permitted to frolic inside Kaupert's old farmhouse. Two of the
animals Baby Girl and Sabrina even sleep in her bed.
"Some people sleep with a dog or a cat," she says. "I've got a big
bed and I sleep with a goat. I've got the goat berries on my pillow
to prove it. I'm not ashamed."
While many Ava residents contacted for this story had no knowledge of
Kaupert or her farm where she shears and sells the hair of goats to
clothing merchants she feels people in Douglas County constantly
"I smoke and I cuss and I don't wear a bra," Kaupert says. "But I
swear I'm more Christian than those people."
She's a goat freak, and proud of it.
Rather than looking into her pasture and seeing a herd of goats,
Kaupert says she sees a field of individuals and she can give the
name and family history of each.
"When you get hooked, I tell you, you get hooked."
Kaupert, who operates an extensive Web site devoted to taking care of
goats, loves the animals so much that she plans to have her name
officially changed to "Goat Lady."
Harold and Lyndell Lakey own Lakey and Lakey Inc., in Douglas County.
The father-and-son duo operates one of the largest hay dealerships in
the area. And since 1988, they have served several hundred customers,
Lyndell Lakey says he allowed Kaupert to purchase hay on credit from
Dec. 14, 2000 to Feb. 12, 2001. According to court documents, the
bill reached more than $1,200.
"We don't even normally run a charge business," Lyndell Lakey
says. "I finally told her she'd have to do something to pay it off. I
offered her a chance to pay $40 a month."
On July 2, 2001, Kaupert sold Lakey a 500-gallon propane tank, which
knocked $500 off her bill. Court documents show that on that same day
Kaupert signed a contract agreeing to pay $40 a month to the Lakeys
starting in October.
Kaupert says she paid the Lakeys $350 in cash in November, but failed
to get a receipt to prove the transaction occurred.
The Lakeys insist that they never received the payment.
"I'll let our reputation stand," Lyndell Lakey says. "I sold $1
million of hay last year and I've never had anybody accuse us of
being on the sly."
On May 1, the Lakeys filed a petition in Douglas County Small Claims
Court against Kaupert for $850 $790 for the unpaid portion of the
bill and $60 to file the petition.
Judge Roger Wall set a hearing for May 30.
Kaupert failed to appear and the judge ordered a default judgment in
favor of the Lakeys for $851. The Goat Lady acknowledges that blowing
off the hearing was a mistake.
"I didn't have any money and I didn't have any proof," Kaupert
says. "So I didn't go to court ... I know now, don't ever not go."
Kaupert had 10 days to file an appeal of the judgment but didn't do
so. She also failed to pay the money or establish a payment plan, so
the Lakeys on June 10 petitioned the court to execute payment.
The document reads:
"The defendant has a large number of goats, donkeys, etc. (at her
home.) We would like to arrange to pick up enough livestock to pay
this debt and all costs."
The court granted the request.
Goats hauled away
On June 17, Sheriff Koop, the Lakeys and Mark Gann a local
livestock hauler showed up at the Kaupert farm to take possession
of the goats.
Koop says he was told by a livestock dealer the unregistered goats
could be sold for $15 to $25 each. That's why he authorized the
seizure of 69 goats at $15 each, they would fetch $1,035.
That amount would've covered the judgment, hauling costs and fees
assessed by the sheriff's department, Koop explains.
Kaupert said she was disturbed to learn the judgment didn't state how
many animals could be taken.
"They just left it up to the Lakeys to take what they wanted," she
And her goats would probably average $100 each on the private market,
Kaupert contends. She says some people who've seen her Web site have
offered as much as $600 for the offspring of some of her stock.
The number of goats the Lakeys and the sheriff took was not
justified, she claims.
"They took thousands of dollars worth of goats. They could've taken
eight goats, but they took 69."
Koop says it's department policy to allow the plaintiffs to arrange
the hauling and storage of any animals seized in a case like this.
"We don't have the capability of taking a herd of goats," the sheriff
says, adding that once the goats were sold, any money above and
beyond the cost of the judgment and court costs would have been
refunded to Kaupert.
"Anything that would've been left over after everyone was paid
would've gone to her," Koop adds.
Kaupert says she cried, screamed and begged the sheriff not to take
She told Koop the goats weren't hers, that she was keeping them for a
friend, Wesley Barnett, in Valles Mines, Mo.
Koop says Kaupert offered no reliable proof that the goats were not
"(Her son) showed me a handwritten paper that said some other man
owned these goats, but I couldn't do anything with that," he says.
After the goats were taken, Barnett filed an affidavit with the court
claiming ownership of the goats. "I do indeed own goats that are now
in the possession of Harold and Lyndell Lakey. These have been my
personal pets since Jan. 3, 2000."
As the goats were being loaded onto the trailer, several escaped and
ran out into the pasture.
"They were separating mothers from babies," Kaupert says, "and they
used a cattle prod on some of the little ones, which was totally
The Lakeys denied using a cattle prod, but hauler Mark Gann
acknowledged that some mother goats were separated from their kids
while he loaded them on the 168-square-foot trailer.
Kaupert and the sheriff agreed that when the goats were loaded up,
the Lakeys said they intended to take the animals to a local auction
barn. But the plans changed.
The Lakeys instead shipped the goats to the North Arkansas Livestock
Auction Market in Green Forest, Ark.
"We thought she'd steal them" if the animals remained in Douglas
County, Harold Lakey explains. "That's why we took them down
there ... It's also a better goat market."
Once the goats were loaded and taken from her farm, Kaupert took
steps to make sure the animals she loved so dearly weren't sold at
She asked the court to issue a quash order to block the sale.
Judge Wall issued the order. But he told Kaupert that to get the
goats back, she had to pay the Lakeys $1,075 by the following morning.
The Goat Lady didn't have the money. So she turned to the only people
she could trust a worldwide network of goat enthusiasts, people she
had never met. She unraveled the "nightmare that you only see in the
Kaupert writes that she was "hysterical" when the animals were being
loaded, explaining that some of the animals were the pets only two
weeks old of her son's girlfriend, Trine. Kaupert explains that she
jumped into the pen and began handing the goats back to Trine.
In the e-mail disseminated to goat lovers worldwide and to regional
media the Goat Lady claims that the sheriff "took my arm behind my
back like they do on TV, wrenching my arm tight behind my back."
Says Koop: "I got a hold of her and held her arm." But the sheriff
insists that he did not "wrench" it behind her back. "I told her if
she didn't calm down, I was going to put her in restraints."
Kaupert's tale and her online request for money had an immediate
"I hit the Internet with it and they Western Union-ed the money," she
says. "These are people I've never laid eyes on."
One woman from the U.S. sent a lump sum of $1,075. Another from Great
Britain sent in pound notes that equaled about $30 in U.S. currency.
Others sent in smaller donations. But it all added up.
"Without them having done that, there would be no goats," Kaupert
says. "Every person that sent me money said, `Don't worry about
paying me back.' I will pay them back."
With money in hand, Kaupert paid the Lakeys and they relinquished
control of the goats.
The animals were hers once again but she had to make several trips
to Arkansas to retrieve them in a small trailer.
Leaving the county
For the past week Kaupert's son and his girlfriend have been loading
the goats and transporting them to Valles Mines, near St. Louis,
where the family plans to settle down.
But until she's out of Douglas County, the Goat Lady feels she is in
She has closed her Web site and replaced the home page with this
"Say prayers for my family and the goats. And should anything happen
to us, say an unfortunate accident or other means of harm in the near
future please contact the proper authorities OUTSIDE of this
county ... Living in constant fear as long as we are here in Douglas
Sheriff Koop says she's exaggerating. Once the bill was paid, he
says, the case was closed.
"Mr. Lakey didn't want those goats no more than I did," the sheriff
says. "There's no reason for this woman to feel she's in danger."
Adds Lyndell Lakey: "Why in the world would I harass her? I got my
The Lakeys said they have monitored the Internet site and have
watched the story told and re-told in cyber space.
"That's the first time I've ever had to take someone to small-claims
court," Lyndell Lakey adds. "I figure nine out of 10 people would've
taken action on her before I did."
if it was a dogfood kibble bill and she raised dogs, would the dogs
be taken to sell to canine-eating Koreans for the bill?
i think not.
no court in the land would treat canines as legal tender.
but goats, even pet goats, are legally considered as "food animals"
and will be treated accordingly, by what passes for the authorities,
2 of the babies were lost or stolen during the fiasco.
you can see their pix here: