Pet rescues for dogs, cats, and horses are not uncommon but, as far as Becky Bircher knows, Puget Sound Goat Rescue is one of a kind in the western United States. Puget Sound Goat Rescue is dedicated to the happiness and well-being of tame goats, Bircher said.
Bircher has been volunteering with Puget Sound Goat Rescue for the last two years. During that time the project has found homes for around 300 goats and a few llamas.
Becky Bircher holds two of the rescued kids.
"In 2007 I was at a local feed store getting supplies for my dog and other animals and they had a goat rescue day," Bircher said. "The goats were there. Once I saw them I decided right away I wanted to volunteer. Now I go every Sunday except when I’ve been sick."
Puget Sound Goat Rescue is the brainchild and passion of Barbara Jamison. Jamison started the rescue project eight years ago. At the time she already had some goats to keep the rampant blackberries at bay. Then a friend called to say that two goats had been abandoned at a feed store. Jamison took in those orphans. Shortly afterwards, at an auction in search of chickens, she saw pet goats being sold for meat.
"Pet goats are usually standing in the pens at auction or slaughterhouse begging to come with you," Jamison said. "They wag their tails when you pet them and just basically want to be with you."
Now, Jamison and Bircher, with the assistance of other goat rescuers, seek out those bottle fed, coddled, pet-quality goats. They find them at a local slaughterhouse, auctions, and other venues. When they find them, Jamison buys them at the price they would go for meat, takes them home, cares for them, and seeks out a good home for them.
"I’m not a vegetarian and we’re not against eating goat meat," Bircher said. "But there are a lot of animals that have pet qualities and were bottle fed and hand raised. They have no business being in a slaughter house."
Puget Sound Goat Rescue finds homes for goats rescued from the slaughterhouse through a variety of means.
"When we get invited to a Rescue Day at the feed store we bring half a dozen or so animals," Bircher said. "We’ve been to a couple of different feed stores. Also I try and make brochures every six weeks. The brochures include what animals are available and a little bio on them. I send them to 30 different feed stores in our area. We also have our animals on the Petfinder.com website."
Because goats are herd animals, people are required to adopt at least two animals.
People can’t adopt animals simply by picking them up at a rescue day at a feed store, however. That avoids impulse adoptions.
"Barbara qualifies everybody first," Bircher said.
Adoptees must show that they can provide dry, draft free shelter, veterinary care when needed, hoof care, and maintenance. They also must have dog and coyote-proof fencing and no poisonous plants, such as rhododendron, in the pasture. Also, adoptees must take more than one goat.
Most adoptees are equally careful as they choose the goats they want. Irina and her husband are good examples of people seeking to adopt.
"Irina saw one of my fliers at the feed store," Bircher said. "She called and said she was looking for a good milker. When she and her husband came out the first time, we had Honey. Honey is a LaMancha that came from the slaughterhouse. She was one of the sweetest goats I ever met. Honey had dried up but Irina fell in love with her and took her. She also took two others. Irina and her husband came out four or five times before they made up their mind."
One of the other goats adopted by Irina and her husband was Piper. Piper, Bircher said, was a grain hog. When he wasn’t getting his grain he was very noisy.
Rescued goat adoptees are vetted to make sure they have proper housing and feeding facilities before they are allowed to take goats home.
"They had neighbors so they had to bring Piper back," Bircher said. "People always have the right to bring them back. We want them to."
Honey, Irina’s doe, cost Barbara Jamison $65. Irina paid $100 in adoption fees. Fees vary, but $100 is about average. However it doesn’t cover Jamison’s cost of transportation, care, feeding, and housing.
"I do get donations from people but do not have an active fundraising program yet. I accept any and all donations as all expenses are out of my pocket," said Jamison, a sales executive with FedEx. "Next to the actual cost of the goats when I buy them, hay is the largest expense."
"Currently I have 49 goats in the rescue. That goes up and down as adoptions happen and new ones are brought in. Because of the economy it has obviously been a very tough year for goats, and I am at capacity now. In the nine years I have been doing this I have adopted over 800 goats."
In addition to rescuing pet-quality goats from imminent slaughter, Puget Sound Goat Rescue is educating volunteers about goats. Becky Bircher says that Jamison has taught her a lot. Bircher is, in turn, teaching other volunteers.
"Barbara recently put an ad in the newspaper," Bircher said. "We got more volunteers including two families with teenage boys. The boys just love the goats and I really enjoy working with them."
For more information on the Puget Sound Goat Rescue operation, visit them on the web at www.goatsave.org/.