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Goat suit claims SPCA out of line

September 08, 1997


Staff Writer

A Hagerstown man, with the help of the Washington County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, took advantage of a man on Indian Springs Road last winter and removed his beloved pet goats, according to a lawsuit filed on Thursday.

Donald Shoemaker, acting as administrator of his late father's estate, filed the suit in Washington County Circuit Court. In it, he said a representative of Broadfording Road resident Bruce R. Bowden showed up at Jesse L. Shoemaker Sr.'s home in February with SPCA agents. They gathered up 30 goats, which Shoemaker kept as pets and hauled them away to be sold, according to court papers.

As compensation for the animals - which are valued at $4,950 - Shoemaker was given $100, the suit alleges.

According to the suit, Shoemaker believed the SPCA agents were police officers requiring him to surrender the goats.

R. Martin Palmer, Shoemaker's attorney, said the man was illiterate. The suit contends that Bowden intended to sell the goats for a huge profit and refused to return them even after Shoemaker offered to give back the $100.


The suit also contends that the SPCA, in assisting Bowden, overstepped its authority to impound dangerous animals.

Bowden did not return telephone calls.

Shelly Moore, executive director of the SPCA, said the agency investigated nuisance complaints and gave Shoemaker a list of conditions to improve. They included a lack of running water and no fence for the animals.

But Moore said the agency did not cite Shoemaker and did not impound the animals. She said the SPCA helped Bowden move the goats after he contacted officials following his purchase.

"We conducted an investigation. It was all done in the proper protocol," she said. "There was no wrongdoing whatsoever."

According to the suit, the loss of the goats left Shoemaker despondent until April 3 when he died during a fire.

"He said he took these goats to church on Sunday. They were his pets," Palmer said. "They said he stood in the driveway with tears streaming down his cheeks when they took them away."

The suit asks for $4,950 - the cost of the goats - as well as $100,000 in punitive damages.

The suit charges that Bowden's conduct was "intentional, reckless and in deliberate disregard of a high probability that emotional distress would result."

It also contends that the SPCA did nothing to assist Shoemaker in getting his pets back.

Moore said Shoemaker never contacted her.

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