Like many of the goats we’ve welcomed to our New York Shelter, Levi came to us through our relationship with New York Animal Care and Control, who found him loose in Brooklyn. The tiny pygmy goat had tags in his ears, one tag from Kentucky and one USDA tag reading “MEAT.” These were evidence that he had been shipped into the city to be sold at one of its many live markets, storefront slaughterhouses infamous for keeping animals in miserable and unsafe conditions. Levi must have escaped from that market, but how is a mystery — he was in no condition to run away from anyone.
When Levi arrived at our New York Shelter, he was congested, emaciated, and crawling with both biting and sucking lice. The 20-pound goat also had ataxia in his hind legs. This ataxia, a lack of voluntary coordination of the muscles, may be a sign that Levi is a fainting goat. Fainting goats have a genetic disorder that causes their muscles to briefly freeze when they’re scared or startled. We are testing Levi to find out if he has this disorder or if there is there is another explanation for his irregular gait.
As an animal considered merely walking “MEAT,” Levi probably experienced rough and callous handling. At the live market, he may have seen or heard others, perhaps even members of his family, being slaughtered. Naturally he is terrified of humans. This makes healthcare sessions hard on him, so we’re taking it slow as we treat his lice and administer antibiotics for his respiratory ailments. We hope eventually Levi will be comfortable and trusting with humans, but that change will come at his pace.
Certainly Levi will feel much more confident once he is well enough to join a herd. He clearly longs for that companionship, calling out to the shelter’s other goats whenever he hears them. Joining a group will be the final part of Levi’s healing, as he enters fully into his life as a sanctuary resident. No longer dismissed as “MEAT,” he will be recognized as a unique individual and also an irreplaceable member of a community.