ORRINGTON, Maine — After being issued a summons for animal cruelty and subsequently shooting her herd of 10 goats, the town’s longtime animal control officer resigned last week.
Town Manager Paul White confirmed Monday that Carla Damon resigned from her post on Sept. 10. He declined to discuss the matter further, noting that the resignation was a personnel matter.
He said the town is seeking a new animal control officer and that the town’s police officers temporarily have taken on Damon’s duties.
State Animal Welfare Program spokesman John Bott confirmed Tuesday that Damon has been issued a summons for animal cruelty for failing to care for the goats and is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 15. He said he did not yet have access to documents supporting the charge. Damon is not facing charges for killing the goats, he said in an email Wednesday.
Damon said Monday that she intends to plead not guilty.
Damon said she learned on Sept. 3 — just before the start of Labor Day weekend — that she was the subject of a complaint lodged with the state Animal Welfare Program about the condition of some of the goats she had been boarding at the Curran Homestead, a local living history and farm museum in Orrington.
Damon said she does not know who made the complaint and that as a former animal control officer, she is aware that this information is not disclosed until animal abuse cases go to court.
After inspecting the goats and their living quarters, a state animal welfare agent provided Damon a list of things that needed to be corrected if she wanted to keep her herd.
Damon said, however, that she was unable to comply with some of the changes the state wanted because she did not own the property on which the goats were housed and because she wasn’t given enough time to address the corrections.
“There was a long list of things that needed to be corrected, some structural things and some complaints about lack of care and lack of feeding because I had two that were a little on the thin side, but they were older goats that had been bred every year,” Damon said in a telephone interview.
One goat was 16 years old and the other 13, she said. Another goat had a slight nasal discharge that could have been treated with an antibiotic.
The rest, she said, were “fat, healthy and sassy.”
“One of the stipulations was that I had to have a vet out to examine the herd of goats before [Sept. 8] or by [Sept. 8],” Damon said. “I told her that basically that left me with one day before a holiday weekend to try to get a vet out there. As you well know through other news articles, we have a shortage of large animal vets, so I did not foresee the possibility of getting one to add me to a rotation” on such short notice.
“So I looked at the animal welfare person and said, ‘So, I do have the right — and correct me if I’m wrong — to destroy my own animals because if I destroy my animals, there is no longer a problem?’ And she said, ‘You are well within your rights to destroy your own personal animals as long as you do it by state statutes, which is one shot, one animal, doing it so that nobody else is being endangered and do it quickly so there is no pain and no suffering or undue stress on the animal,’” Damon said.
Maine law allows the owner of a livestock animal to shoot it provided it is done humanely.
Damon said she would have preferred to have the goats processed for meat but she was unable to find an opening before late December.
“So it was with a heavy heart that I chose to put down animals that I brought into this world because a lot of them, I helped deliver,” she said, adding, “I was not going to shift the burden off my shoulders and onto somebody else’s because [the state] would have wanted to do a follow-through and monitor the animals wherever they went.”
Damon shot the goats over Labor Day weekend at a location that she declined to identify because she did not want to involve the property owner in the controversy that the incident has generated in town. Some of the goats were buried and others became coyote bait, she said.
“After I dispatched my animals, I sat down and bawled,” she said. “lt was with a heavy heart that I had to destroy the animals without having animal welfare compounded fines and penalties for not being in compliance.”
Damon said she likely was facing an initial fine of least $500.
The situation did not sit well with town officials, she said.
“The town asked for my resignation voluntarily or I could wait until [Monday night’s selectmen’s meeting] and they would vote me off as ACO,” Damon said. She said that she was asked to leave the post “because of things that went on in my own personal life regarding the goats. They do not feel it looks kosher for an animal control officer to be reported and to possibly be facing animal cruelty charges, regardless of the fact that they were my own personal animals.”
Damon said she has a legal right to destroy her own animals so long as it is done humanely.
“I feel that what I had to do to my own animals should not reflect upon how I treated other people’s animals in my line of work as far as being the animal control officer,” she said.
Damon said her stipend from the town was slightly more than $400 a month and that she was on call around the clock. Now that she has lost her job, she might have to downsize her flock of 16 chickens, she said.
Irv Marsters, treasurer of the Curran Homestead board, said Tuesday that Damon had permission to keep her goats on the nonprofit’s property and that he was surprised to learn of the animal abuse charge because she has been a valuable volunteer, frequently bringing small animals to the homestead’s public events to teach people how to take care of them.
“I’m sorry it all happened and I feel bad for Carla because it’s a difficult situation. I just hope for the best for her,” he said.