Deputy criticized for shooting goat in YLP

Brian WilkinsonSeptember 19, 2012 

A resident of Yosemite Lakes Park has called the actions of a Madera County sheriffs' deputy "overly aggressive" when he shot and killed her seven-month-old goat Sept. 3.

The deputy, John Terry, was called to his own house in YLP after his wife Sandy called the sheriff's office to report a "wild animal" that kept jumping against her windows.

The goat's owner, Tricia Aceves, said Deputy Terry shot the goat named Rugar while she and her two children were attending the Mariposa County Fair. Aceves said the goat was purchased when it was six weeks old with the intention of getting her 9-year-old son involved in 4-H.

Aceves said her 60 pound animal got loose from her yard and ended up in Terry's yard, just two houses down from her home. Aceves said Deputy Terry called her cell phone and left a message stating the goat was being aggressive and had attacked his wife and dog and he had no other choice but to shoot the goat.

"I had just got through listening to the phone message when Mr. Terry knocked on my door that evening to again explain to me the circumstances that led him to shoot Rugar," Aceves said. "He told me Rugar was jumping against his sliding glass door and charged him and he used pepper spray on Rugar before he shot him. He said we needed to control our pets and keep them on our own property or this would not have happened. He expressed no remorse for what he did, made no apology and offered no restitution."

"I feel like it was unnecessary to shoot and kill the goat," Aceves said. "It's hard to believe Rugar was a physical threat to him. I think he (Terry) could have handled it in a better way, like tying Rugar up until I got home. I just wish he would have called me before he shot Rugar ... I could have had a neighbor go get Rugar."

But Terry's wife, Sandy, who called the sheriff's office, said the goat was a threat.

She said she was taking her golden retriever outside on a leash to go to the bathroom when the goat came running up, startling her and the dog.

"The goat kept coming at us with its head down trying to butt us," Sandy said. "I was dragging our dog into the garage to get away from the goat, but the goat kept charging at us. I finally got the garage door closed and got into the house but I kept hearing it outside jumping against our glass sliding door. I thought maybe something was wrong with the goat."

Sandy said the goat then started jumping against the window in her laundry room.

"I went back outside with a broom and tried to shoo the goat away," Judy said. "I got him to the end of our property and when I turned around to go back to the house, all of a sudden he ran at me and butted me in my butt. That's when I called the sheriff's department and told them about the very aggressive goat."

Sandy said her husband got the call from dispatch and arrived at the house from Oakhurst about a half hour later and the goat was still jumping against the windows.

"When my husband got there he went around the side of the house and when the goat saw him, it charged and lunged at him," Sandy said. "My husband sprayed the goat twice with pepper spray but it did not affect the goat and it again lunged at him. That's when he shot the goat."

Sandy said the goat was very aggressive and that's why she called the sheriff's office.

"I thought about shooting it myself but I heard children playing outside nearby houses and I thought it best to call the sheriff's department," Sandy said.

"When goats play they can butt you, that's what goats do," Aceves said. "I'm 5-feet-tall and I could put my hand out and stop him easily when he does that."

Aceves said the goat was left on the side of the road overnight because animal control was not available on Sept. 3 due to it being a holiday. She said when she called animal control the next morning to report an act of animal cruelty she was told to leave the animal where it was and they would come investigate what happened and pick the animal up that day.

"They never showed up and on the following day (Sept. 5), a lady with animal control called me and their attitude totally changed from the day before," Aceves said. "I was told to pick-up the animal or they would charge me $50 plus a dollar a mile from Madera to come get Rugar. I asked why they did not come out the day before like I was told would happen ... and I also asked what happened to the investigation they said would take place, but the lady had no answers to my questions."

Aceves said at that point she was extremely upset and had a friend, Bianca Tindel, place a blanket over the animal after it had laid in the sun for three days.

"A friend of mine who is a security officer at YLP came and picked-up Rugar for me," Aceves said.

Aceves said she understands the deputy's action was probably legal.

"I just feel he could have handled the situation better than he did," Aceves said. "Rugar has never been aggressive around my two boys and in fact, he was afraid of my Shih Tzu dog. He had gotten out of the yard once before and one of our neighbors picked him up and put him back in the fenced yard."

Kirsten Gross, director of Madera County Animal Services, said the goat was off its property and it's the responsibility of the pet owner to keep their animals on their property.

Gross said male goats, especially if not castrated, can be aggressive and fairly formidable when they are running at you with their horns.

"If the officer felt he or his family was in danger, he had the right to protect himself," Gross said.

She added it is the responsibility of the owner of any dead animal to arrange disposal of the animal.

"We provide the service at a cost," Gross said.

Sheriff John Anderson said he is aware of the incident and said an internal investigation is underway.

Deputy Terry is a nearly 30-year veteran of the sheriff's office and could not comment due to the internal investigation.

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