Tiny Goat Whose Horns Were Burned Off Recovers In Cozy Hats
"It's just a sweet little innocent baby. How could they think of doing anything besides kissing that head?"
When Leanne Lauricella saw the baby goat, she felt absolutely sick. A vet had shaved the goat's head, and burned off his tiny horn buds with a scolding hot iron.
"I was so angry and upset," Lauricella, the founder of Goats of Anarchy, a group that rescues and rehabilitates goats with special needs, told The Dodo. "It's just a sweet little innocent baby. How could they think of doing anything besides kissing that head?"
The goat, whom Lauricella named Lawson after a supporter's son, was only about a week and a half old. He weighed about two pounds, according to Lauricella, and had a sweet, high-pitched call.
"He sounds like a mouse speaking," Lauricella said. "I can't even do that high of a pitch in an imitation of him. It's like the highest little squeak because he's so tiny."
But this little goat already had big problems. Lawson was born without the middle sections of his back legs, and Lauricella says that he'll need to get his entire back legs amputated. Once that's done, Lawson will have to learn to walk using a special wheelchair cart.
The woman who originally owned Lawson knew that he'd need special care, so she reached out to Lauricella, and arranged for her to take him. But first, the woman took Lawson to the vet for a checkup, and the vet talked her into disbudding Lawson, which involved burning off his horn buds.
The woman had very little experience with goats, Lauricella explained, so she thought she was doing the right thing by taking the vet's advice.
"This vet convinced her that her babies needed to be done," Lauricella said. "She said they were very, very pushy, and talked her into it. And once it was done, she was just so horrified that she actually threw up afterwards. And she said, 'I'm supposed to be his protector, but I didn't know.' I don't blame her at all."
Disbudding, also known as dehorning, is a common practice of removing a young goat's horns by holding a hot iron to the goat's horn buds for several seconds, which cauterizes all the blood vessels that make horns grow. Goat meat and dairy farmers often do this to prevent goats from getting caught in fencing, hurting other goats (especially when living in cramped conditions) or hurting the farmers themselves.
But Lauricella believes the process is unnecessary and cruel.
"It's an extremely hot iron, and it smokes, and after they do it, you smell the burning skin and the burning hair smell for awhile," she said. "They scream. A lot of people put them in a box that's made for this, and only their head is sticking out, so they can't move. It's mutilation and it's torture."
Not only is the procedure painful, disbudding also interferes with the rest of the goat's body.
"Goat horns are full of blood vessels, and that's what helps them regulate their body temperature, so that's what helps them stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter," Lauricella said. "When you take those away, you're messing with their bodies."
Goats also use their horns to scratch their backs, to play and to defend themselves. "They love them - it's part of being a goat," Lauricella said. "I feel so sorry for the goats of mine who don't have them."
What's more, the horns often grow back - but not in a good way.
"Because boy goats have so much testosterone, after about a year, they almost always grow back these little horn scurs," Lauricella said. "It's where the horn just wants to keep growing back in, and it's not a full horn anymore. So they'll grow, maybe an inch or half an inch, and some of them will curl back into the goat's head, and you have to treat them."
Disbudding has also been linked to serious medical conditions like meningoencephalitis, which is the swelling of the brain and surrounding tissue.
"I was just shocked at the lack of compassion and the lack of mercy this vet had, and just absolutely no heart to do this to this tiny baby," Lauricella said.
Thankfully, Lauricella doesn't think Lawson's in pain anymore. His head just looks awful. To remedy the situation, Lauricella turned to hats.
"I started to think, 'He's not going to have any cute baby pictures,'" Lauricella said. "All you're going to see if this terrible mutilation on the top of his head. So I said, 'OK, I'm going to get him some cute little hats, so he has some nice baby pictures, and we don't have to focus on that.'"
The hair on the top of Lawson's head is slowing growing back, but Lauricella thinks it will take at least a couple months. In the meantime, she said, she's on the lookout for "cute summer hats" for Lawson.
To help Lawson heal, and to help other adorable goats with special needs, you can make a donation to Goats of Anarchy.