Phyllis Anderson has jokingly referred to herself as “the GOAT” (Greatest of All Time) since Oakmont brought in work goats to clear brush along the Allegheny River two years ago.

But the assistant city manager wants residents to know that the goats’ escape from their enclosure this week was no laughing matter. She fears they may have gotten lost or been hit by a car.

“That’s why we strictly enforce the municipal code,” Anderson said.

Last month, the council amended an ordinance to prohibit the feeding of wildlife and animals used for vegetation management, with violators facing fines of up to $600.

Goats enjoy interacting with people, she said, and will often follow people who feed or pet them, which distracts them from their work and increases their chances of escape.

“There’s plenty of food down there for them,” Anderson said.

The breakout occurred Monday after a woman petted one of the goats. They quickly pushed through a section of fence that had been weakened by the high water and began following the woman and her dog.

By Tuesday morning, municipal workers had lured all six goats back into their enclosure.

Despite the setbacks, Oakmont residents are big fans of the goats, and have not only given the community a second mascot, but also drastically reduced unwanted vegetation.

Melinda Vetterly has only one complaint: People aren’t allowed to pet them. She also said they’re good for the community, and simply said, “I love goats.”

Tom Knoll, another Oakmont resident, often walks past the goats on the trail and says he enjoys the clear views of the river they create.

“Everybody loves them, especially Guinness, the little one,” Knoll said. “They’re hard workers.”

From May until the job is done, the goats roam the steep slope, feeding on invasive plants, with lots of napping. Goats sleep five hours a day in about 30 minutes, according to Monica Shields, co-owner of Capricious LLC.

The McCandless-based company rents about 100 goats to municipalities and private property owners in the area. It charges Oakmont about $3,000 a year for the service — much cheaper than hiring manpower, Anderson said.

Capricious moves his pen along the riverbank about every six days to maintain a fresh supply of edible plants for the herd, Shields said, which is about half the time it used to take.

The knotweed along the riverbank in the Edgewood neighborhood has been reduced from about 15 feet high to just 4 1/2, thanks to the goats. Knotweed is an invasive species that can choke out native plants if not controlled.

But just because goats eat plants we consider weeds doesn’t mean they can eat anything, Shields says.

“Goats can eat a lot of different types of vegetation, but there are also things they can eat that are mildly toxic,” Shields said. “Sometimes when people take leaves off of bushes or trees and give them to them, it may not be something the goats can eat.”

Furthermore, she doesn’t want her goats to become lazy.

“I want them to work,” Shields said. “I don’t want them just hanging out by the fence and begging for treats.”

Jack Troy is a TribLive reporter. Originally from Pittsburgh, he joined the Trib in January 2024. He can be reached at [email protected].