Friday, March 7, 2014
AUGUSTA — A beef about loose cows has wound up in court again.
The town of Readfield is suing Edward Munson, claiming his cattle continue to get loose on public roads and threaten public safety. The lawsuit, filed Friday in Kennebec County Superior Court, asks the court to fine Munson and order the animals removed from the property.
Munson, who lives in the neighboring town of Winthrop, was reached by phone Friday afternoon and said the young bull that has been escaping most recently has gone to another farm for the summer, so he expects the problem to die down.
He said he has about 120 Black Angus and Hereford cattle, including calves. "They're well taken care of. They're not skinny or nothing." Munson maintains one neighbor in particular is responsible for a number of complaints because he does not want the cattle on his property.
It's the second time the town has sued Munson about loose cows. Last summer, Munson was assessed more than $4,500 in Augusta District Court, including fines for contempt of court for failing to comply with a court order to do an inspection of his fences accompanied by the Readfield animal control officer.
Munson said he has bought new posts and fencing to install, but is waiting for a survey of his property so the fence can be put up on the correct lines.
The cows escape, he said, "because the grass is greener on the other side" and because the animals are nosy.
The town has kept a running total of loose cows, and the lawsuit documents 30 instances of cattle getting loose on private property or public roads between Sept. 12, 2012 and May 26, 2013.
A document from the Town Office shows that a young black bull escaped June 13, and a brown steer or bull escaped three times from June 17 to 19. Sometimes a trio of cows gets loose, that record shows.
Most times, Readfield's animal control officer Karen Peterson herds them back, occasionally with Munson.
"We certainly would like to get some of the town's costs recovered, especially the animal control officer's time and the legal expenses," Readfield Town Manager Stefan Pakulski said. "It's outrageous that it's been this much of a problem for this long."
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Michael A. Hodgins on behalf of the town, charges eight violations of the state's animal trespass statute and seeks penalties for each violation. The penalty can range from $50 to $500 for each violation, plus restitution for costs for animal removal and control.
The lawsuit also says the loose animals constitute a public nuisance.
Munson said he intends to get a lawyer to respond to the lawsuit on his behalf.
Betty Adams — 621-5631