William Barbaro had planned to take his goats with him to Maine and start a new life. Now his vision of a family farm is in disarray: Four of the goats were attacked, he said, and killed by a pair of pit bulls Friday.
The dogs clawed their way into the goat house in Barbaro's Mastic Beach backyard before 4 a.m. Friday. By the time he got there, three goats were dead. The fourth died in a Riverhead animal hospital two hours later, he said.
Authorities had not found the dogs late Friday afternoon.
Outside his Cranberry Drive home Friday, Barbaro, 47, wept as he held up a picture of the goats: Becky, Delilah, Jade and Lucy. He and his fiancee, Noelle Pearsall, 38, said they spent at least four hours a day feeding and cleaning them. "I took exceptional care of my babies," he said. "It doesn't become a chore. It becomes stress relief at the end of the day."
Barbaro said the couple had planned to move to Maine, where Pearsall's parents own land, and start a farm.
Barbaro, an automation mechanic at a Plainview eyeglasses factory, and Pearsall, who works at a Ronkonkoma vision lab, said both are divorced and don't have custody of their respective children. Their home is in foreclosure, and Barbaro said he signed bankruptcy papers Thursday.
"We want to be self-sufficient," Barbaro said. "I just wanted to go start over again."
Barbaro says his dog's barking awakened him Friday morning and he heard strange noises in his backyard. He went out with a flashlight and noticed the gate to the pen was broken.
Barbaro saw Lucy, a 6-month-old black and white goat, lying near the goat house. "When she saw me, she turned her head and screamed," he said.
Several wooden boards that had come off the goat house had claw marks on them, he said, and the carcasses of the three dead goats were lying on the ground outside. He didn't immediately see the dogs. But as Barbaro leaned down to pick up Lucy, one of the pit bulls growled, he said. He grabbed a large hammer and raised it.
Both dogs eventually ran away. Barbaro drove Lucy to an animal hospital in Riverhead, but she died at about 6 a.m., he said.
"All we had was that," Pearsall said. "I knew last year that we weren't going to make it here. I tried to plan something that was going to help us make a little money."
The two now say they will move to Maine at the end of October, taking their remaining animals - two male goats that were locked in the garage, as well as a dog, two cats and a few chickens.
They also hope to get more goats.