Goat back at the fair after stolen from cage

Published 6:45 pm Friday, August 4, 2023

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Rabbit still missing after pens opened in barns

The beginning of fair week started with a worry for several Freeborn County 4-H’ers when they came to check on their animals Tuesday morning and noticed something was wrong.

In the open sheep barn, the pens were open and things were out of place. The rods that kept the pens shut were all removed and buried together in one area under sawdust, said Amy Wadding, Extension educator who works in 4-H youth development in Freeborn County.

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She said some of the animals got out of their pens and had to be put back, and once the 4-H families got the animals back in their right pens, they noticed one was missing: a small 17-pound Nigerian Dwarf goat that belonged to Wadding’s 9-year-old daughter Abby.

“I was pretty scared and not very happy because I didn’t know where he went,” Abby said of when she heard her goat, named Brownie, was missing. This was her first year as a regular 4-H’er after graduating out of Cloverbuds.

Shortly after, some other 4-H’ers were in the neighboring barn with rabbits and discovered several cages were open there, too, and one rabbit was missing. That rabbit was known to come and greet someone when its cage door was open. It is unknown if that rabbit was taken or if it wandered off.

“We have never had a problem of this sort of animals being led out — we’ve had stuff put in feed buckets, like candy — but not intentionally letting things out,” Amy Wadding said.

Though it’s unknown exactly when the pens were opened, Wadding said it is believed to have occurred between 11:30 p.m. Monday and about 4 a.m. Tuesday, though Abby said she had heard that someone had seen her goat still in its cage after that time.

Wadding said 4-H families take care of each other, and the families worked to support each other in the aftermath of that morning, too.

Later that day, a fellow 4-H’er was working on the other side of town and noticed something out of the norm at a home.

Wadding said the youth realized it was weird and out of context and called her father, who shared with her that there were some animals missing at the fair.

They then sent her a picture of Brownie, and she confirmed it was the animal she had seen.

Wadding said they called Albert Lea police to report the incident, and law enforcement went to the home first without a response at the door.

Later the family went to the house with some other volunteers and they were able to knock on the door at that time and find a relative who returned the animal to the Waddings. She said from the reaction of the relative, she did not believe that family member even knew the goat was there before they came.

The missing rabbit belonged to 17-year-old Elizabeth Olson of Buffalo Center, Iowa.

Wadding said after a post went up that the rabbit was gone, another 4-H family friend came forward with a different rabbit Elizabeth could show in the place of her animal.

Elizabeth said her rabbit was a black Polish rabbit that was friendly and loved to be held.

“It’s really low to take a 4-H’ers animal,” she said. “We work hard all year to get them ready.”

Though she was glad to be able to have a rabbit to show, she said it wasn’t the same without the animal she had been prepared for.

Wadding said though it has been an unfortunate situation, leaders are trying to teach life skills such as perseverance to the youth through what has happened.

She also encouraged people to say something when they see something out of place, whether it be in a case like this or something else entirely.