A Jamul-based goat breeder is among a dozen plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit in San Diego charging that seven individuals and five businesses have been improperly denied "meaningful economic participation in the pygmy goat industry."
Donna Elkins and her Proverbial Pygmies breeding operation are among those who last week sued the National Pygmy Goat Association, charging that a campaign existed to banish gray-brown agouti goats from registering with the organization and participating in competitive shows sanctioned by the organization.
"Gray-brown agouti" refers to the goat's coat — these animals will have a mix of gray and brown hair intermingled with white hairs, lightening the color on certain parts of the fur.
For three decades, the plaintiffs charge, the association employed language stating that "all body colors are acceptable." In 2008, however, association board members began to receive complaints that the gray-brown agouti markings were "undesirable," and Elkins was accused of introducing them to her herd through cross-breeding with a Nigerian dwarf goat.
After a "Just Say No to Tri-Color" campaign eventually succeeded in getting the "all body colors" language removed from association guidelines in 2010, Elkins says she was accused of fraudulently attempting to create "interesting colors" through the improper cross-breeding, and Los Angeles–area lead plaintiff Debra Hosley faced charges of running her operation as a "puppy mill."
In June of 2013, the association finally implemented a competition ban on goats of "nonconformity of color/pattern." The association website's page on goat coloring contains various examples of acceptable markings, though gray-brown agoutis are not featured. The result of the rule change, plaintiffs say, is that their goats, even those who have previously won awards at regional or national shows, are now prohibited from participating in competitions.
"Now animals that are fully registered, some with Grand Champion wins, will no longer be able to enter the show ring to compete," charges the complaint.
"A pygmy goat without NPGA papers is a virtually worthless breeding animal," say breeders, who note that most buyers in the boutique pygmy goat market demand association papers when buying goat kids. By getting their animals banned from the association, the plaintiffs argue, the association members who launched the campaign against them effectively forced Elkins and others out of the market, allowing for less competition and for the remaining breeders to command higher prices.
The breeders seek punitive damages and reinstatement of the right to register their gray-brown goats.