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money-mad mooks in Mo make misery

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    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 News-Leader
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2002
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      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
      News-Leader
      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
      became family.

      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
      judge her.

      "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."

      Unpaid debts

      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,
      including Kaupert.

      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
      says.

      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
      the animals.

      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 property.

      "(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
      uncalled for."

      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."

      Internet campaign

      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
      auction.

      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
      movies."

      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
      impact.

      "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
      danger.

      She has closed her Web site and replaced the home page with this
      message:

      "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
      County."

      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
      money."

      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."

      http://www.springfieldnews-leader.com/news/goats070702.html

      ...

      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,
      as commoditie$.

      2 of the babies were lost or stolen during the fiasco.
      you can see their pix here:
      http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Acres/3014/

      ...
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