Arcata's Other Goat Crisis Ends – June 15, 2011

Tom Vanciel's vacant K Street home.


Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

K STREET – Lost in the bleating over Cypress Grove Chevre's now-halted goat dairy project has been the passing of another, much tinier goatroversy.

In recent weeks, complaints about Tom Vanciel’s K Street residence have accumulated almost as fast as colorful slogans espousing love and liberty have proliferated on the house's front walls.

Vanciel and housemate Samuel Sanchez have become known for their animal companions, including a yak and as many as nine goats. The two often walk their livestock around town, and the home they share at 1250 K Street has evolved into something of a suburban ranch. That kind of animal keeping isn’t permitted in areas zoned Residential Low-Density, the designation for that neighborhood.

City Building Official Dean Renfer sent Vanciel a letter notifying him that three goats in his yard were a violation of Land Use Code Article 4, paragraph 9.42.050 last Sept. 27, but the animals remained.

Arcata Police then attempted to cite Vanciel for the violation, but he reportedly shut his front door on an officer and wouldn’t open it, defying enforcement.

Another City letter elevating the matter to a “Notice Of Nuisance” was sent Feb. 23., this time noting the presence of “what appears to be a Yak.” The letter ordered removal of the animals and warned of fines, but the beasts remained at the property.

The backyard. KLH | Eye

For Vanciel, the City complaints were just one node in a broad matrix of oppressive acts from several quarters, both official and neighborly.

In a brief interview May 4 over his front yard fence, Vanciel related a number of instances of what he said was harassment and denial of his rights. He prefaced his comments with a concern that he asked be included in any news story: “I don’t know that I’m going to get a fair deal from you in the press,” he said.

Describing himself as a disabled veteran, Vanciel said that in the course of his military service he had been ordered to form death squads in Central America. On refusing to do so, he said the military branded him a paranoid schizophrenic.

He further alluded to what he said were classified matters, including “irradiated gold.”

After leaving the military, Vanciel said he lived “off grid” for 20 years, drawing disability payments for sustenance. In 2007, he got a loan from Bank of America to purchase the K Street house. Property records show the house having been purchased Aug. 21, 2007 by Thomas and Nancy Vanciel.

But he, like many others, found himself “underwater” when the housing bubble burst, with his payments exceeding the value of his home. Vanciel claimed the bank had miscalculated his interest rate, and was charging too much. Apparently he had fallen behind on the payments, as, according to neighbors, Bank  of America was foreclosing on the property.

Another source of conflict was Vanciel's neighbors, with whom police logs document numerous clashes. One complained that the fence he built around his house impinged on the neighboring property, which an APD officer confirmed. Other neighbors complained about the noise, odor and mess of his farm animals.

Particularly troubling for Vanciel was Rich’s Body Shop, located directly across the street. He claimed the business was “poisoning” the neighborhood with chemical emissions from its paint (see “E-mails of the Week,” page 7).

Employees at Rich’s said that Vanciel had initially been a friendly neighbor, sometimes visiting the shop for assistance with, for example, assembling a bicycle. But they said the relationship went sour about the time Vanciel’s wife moved away, after which Sanchez moved in.

At that point, Vanciel’s allegations about air pollution began, with weekly complaints to the North Coast Air Quality Management Board. The Rich’s personnel said an inspector would visit following each complaint, make an inspection and find no violations.

Vanciel had unfriendly interactions with other neighbors as well. An area businessperson said he had encountered Vanciel and Sanchez walking their relatively exotic animals in the neighborhood and asked if he could take a picture. “I just thought it would be a cute thing to show my kid,” the businessperson said. “I had no problem with what they were doing.”

But the photo request earned a harsh rebuke from the two, who dressed him down for not saying “hello” first. “It was a very bizarre and anti-social reaction,” the man said.

Sanchez had attracted his own complaints independent of Vanciel. One caller to APD complained that his pygmy goat, Love, couldn't be happy parading around on city streets. "That's no life for a goat," the complainant said.

Others found the somewhat exotic animals a welcome, even comical sight. On passing HSU's Wagner House one afternoon, the staff of KHSU were all but enraptured by the sight of the yak, which station employees not necessarily skilled in animal husbandry took to be a buffalo. "Buffalo! Buffalo!" exclaimed one onlooker.

But other interactions with the public were increasingly tense. As the bad vibes multiplied, the number of signs espousing love and social harmony on Vanciel’s house proliferated.

Underlying his problems with the City, he said during the yard interview, was the hidden hand of City Councilmember and adjacent property owner Alex Stillman. He claimed that her property to the east of his home encroaches over his fenceline by two feet. He tied this in with what he said was a natural spring in his front yard, which he said he tried to register with the City. “I was laughed off by the building inspector,” he said.

Vanciel suspected that Stillman and possibly others were attempting to steal his water rights, as the fresh water source in his yard was a key source of non-fluoridated water. He further claimed that fluoride was being used as a mind-control agent to induce docility and compliance in the populace.

Stillman said she had tried to contact Vanciel, but was unsuccessful. She said she was open to discussion. “I’m in the phone book,” Stillman said.

Vanciel asked this reporter whether he had heard that he was a paranoid schizophrenic. Told that this had been suggested by a neighbor, Vanciel became enraged and began beating on his mailbox with a stick, then went inside his house, terminating the interview.

As the reporter departed, Sanchez then took up the tirade, yelling from the yard that “You’re a hater – you don’t even love Tad, and he loves everyone!” Vanciel then emerged from the love-and-peace slogan-slathered house to blurt profane epithets at the reporter.

Nonetheless, Vanciel later submitted a picture to the newspaper depicting him, his yak and a goat on the Plaza. It was published on the front page of the May 11, 2011 Arcata Eye.

Adding to the confusion over the animal, City officials believe the animal is a yakalo – a yak/bison hybrid  better adapted to the Humboldt climate.

One neighbor respected Vanciel as a rugged individualist with certain personal issues, but not malevolent in any way. The neighbor said Vanciel was happy and calm when at home with his beloved animals.

Monday, May 30, the situation changed. Wrote a neighbor: “He packed up Monday night and left his house. He has left a mess in his front yard and back yard with animal waste mixed up with straw. Not a very attractive sight or smell. It has left our neighborhood wondering who is going to clean up this mess.”

As of mid-June, the house appears vacant. The backyard was strewn with straw and animal waste. Warning letters from the City are posted in the front window, with Vanciel’s name redacted.

Vanciel was overheard at Hensel’s Hardware telling someone he was moving out of state, presumably with the animals.


Note: In recent months, Tom Vanciel and his yak, along with his roommate Samuel Sanchez and his goat, have attracted a lot of public interest as they wandered about town with the animals. The home they shared at 1250 K St. also attracted attention of an official nature for its livestock population. Below are attempts at communication with Vanciel over the past month. The only editing was removal of his e-mail address. – Ed.


Date: May 4, 2011 9:16:48 PM PDT

To: [email protected]

Subject: stop stillman

Know your water well !



I do not know anything about you other than what I’ve been told by the owner of Love.

I have read your paper and was amused at first by your irreverent treatment of the police log.

However I have come to experience the Police Problem here in Arcata first hand.

You have a civic charter and government license to report the truth, not distort for amusement.

If you would bother to investigate the stories of Geronimo or Brent or Tad rather than make sport of their plight you might be trusted to report real news.

Would Pvt Manning trust a tool like you?

Tool for if you knowingly sport and propagate the hate towards the “least of these” you are not a friend to the reader.

YOU, stopped by my house today with entirely the wrong posture.

To start your interview with a Query you knew to be false, “Is that Love?” referring to the kid goat in my arms, was not conducive to establishing trust!

You admitted that you had heard I was a Paranoid Schizophrenic.

So I ask you, and your readers, what was your motive for arriving ambush for a interview in an adversarial stance?

Did you illicit the response you wanted?

I invite you back for a proper interview to share with your readers the Full story of why Arcata Is not the Liberal City it boasts.

I Challenge you to share the full story behind the fluoride in your water.

I’ll gladly reveal tactics that can be deployed against a whistle blower.

I can share how signing a petition barring recruiters form High School Campuses will invite an Audit from the IRS of NON TAXABLE income.

Where the truth is subservient to Profit. Tyranny rules!

I am a Veteran on a Pension.  Who else dares to speak the truth.

The Gentrification conspiracy which closes bathrooms and stops feeding programs, is also willing to grease the wheels of their economic machine with the financial corps of a disabled veteran.

Please share with your readers the revelations I given you about my neighbor Alex Stillman.

Ask Alex when you interview her why it is that Rich’s Paint Shop is allowed to poison the lungs of 500+ residents in this residential neighborhood?

some of whom are her tenants?

Grist for the mill


From: Arcata Eye <[email protected]>

Date: May 4, 2011 9:42:04 PM PDT

Subject: Re: stop stillman


Sir (I don’t know your name),

I apologize for creating any offense. I mean you no harm and only wish to understand your story.

I did not know that the animal you were holding wasn’t Love. I was trying to break the ice.

Thank you for asking me back. Perhaps you could let me know when you might be willing to chat.

I don’t wish to disturb or upset you.

Please feel free to call me at 826-7000 any time.



Date: May 5, 2011 7:01:59 PM PDT

To: [email protected]

Subject: Re: stop stillman


You really do need to stop drinking the tap water.

Fluoride effects the higher reasoning skills in adult humans.

I was giving you the benefit of doubt regarding your query of the goats name.

If your are honestly telling me that you thought that an infant goat could possibly be the same goat from a year ago your reasoning skills are truly dulled.

This is the effect desired by our government.

Bread and Circus  (dumb and happy)

Florine is a by product of the nuclear weapons production industry.

It has been used to mask the radiation exposure of civilian populations near nuclear facilities since the first spill in Hanford Washington during the 2nd ww.

with the extensive atmospheric test of the 50’s it became necessary to fluoridate the populace to mask the exposure which would later manifest as Cancers.

Garbage in Garbage out.

You are what you eat! breath drink

I get to be exposed to Solvents from Rich’s Auto Body. which produce a blood chemistry that triggers anger.

This chemistry is known to the State Of California. Regulations are in place to control exposure.

The lack of enforcement of those rules are what needs to be investigated.

Plutocracy, I suggest, is the cause.


Tom and Sam with their mini-herd at Humboldt State. Cell phone photo courtesy Monica Topping


From: Arcata Eye <[email protected]>

Date: May 5, 2011 7:15:42 AM PDT

Subject: Re: stop stillman



I’m afraid I don’t know your animals, having only seen them from a distance.  It was a clumsy error, and again, I apologize.


From: Arcata Eye <[email protected]>

Subject: Hi Tom

Date: Tue, 24 May 2011 17:19:37 -0700



I wonder if I could talk to you some more about the issues you raised.

I see that the City is considering some kind of enforcement against the way you are using your property. It’s an unusual situation which could become a news story.




Date: May 24, 2011 7:17:49 PM PDT

To: [email protected]

Subject: Re: Hi Tom

I am glad to see that you have a working relationship with the police which allows you access to inter workings of this facist puppet dictatorship of Mendoza.

If you would care to enlighten me to their planned enforcement I would bee happy.

Have you discovered anything regarding my allegations over the spring in my yard?

I discovered that as of 2003 state laws considers it a crime to allow the discharge of such a spring to enter public waterways or land and is subject to fines of $50/day not to exceed $1000/day.

The question still begs to be asked how it is the city can stand blind and allow the sale of this “pig in a poke”  property.

it was the city that paved over the damage caused by the spring.

It was the city that plumbed the current fix.

If you can answer some of my questions I will answer yours.

let us kept this conversation in text please



From: Arcata Eye <[email protected]>

Date: May 25, 2011 9:53:06 AM PDT

Subject: Re: Hi Tom



Your sign-festooned yard and animals have attracted public attention. People are asking the newspaper what is up with your situation and I am trying to find out.

It looks like I will end up writing a story at some point. I hope that it accurately represents your side as well as everyone else’s. My central mission is telling the readers what is going on in their town.

I didn’t talk to the Police Department. I asked Community Development if there was any enforcement activity going on with your animals, and they gave me a Feb. 23 letter to you. Anyone can walk in and get that, as, like all City correspondence, it is a public document.

I don’t know what they plan for enforcement, and from what I understand, neither do they at this point.

Have you discovered anything regarding my allegations over the spring in my yard?

I’m not exactly clear what your allegations are; certainly not well enough to report it. Perhaps I need a refresher on that.

The question still begs to be asked how it is the city can stand blind and allow the sale of this “pig in a poke”  property. it was the city that paved over the damage caused by the spring.

I wasn’t aware that there was any damage. What was damaged?

If you can answer some of my questions I will answer yours.

I will do what I can.

let us kept this conversation in text please





Related posts


  1. Pingback: Occupy Arcata Heights Ends With A Splatter | Huff Santa Cruz

  2. Tyler Frost said:

    Hello my name is Tyler, I just recently traveled my girlfriend Gin, my dog, and 2 cats, over 650 miles. We had no choice but to either travel by hitching and any alternative route we could find. I believe any animal should be accepted as a service animal as long as they can individually pass a kindness and obedience course. We all have heard stories of those amazing out of the ordinary pets, that bring nothing other than pure happiness, and long living results to their owners.

    To tell Tom that his Yak, and Goats are not able to bring him, secure happiness and insightful days while caring for his animals, are not any ones discretion to be made. I have had the pleasure to meet Tom myself. He is extremely generous and kind to animals and humans alike.

    Please check to see how Tom and his friend Carly helped Gin, myself and my animals. Now we are staying in Tom’s home, trying to help him in any way to save this amazing spring water well, That I will vouch for as being healthier, and much more appreciative H2o, without any additives. It is purely noticeable, that Natural spring water can be valuable. Let’s help keep it in the right hands. Tom has my support along with Gin’s and our animals.

  3. Mark Sailors said:

    I ask the questions I ask
    because I am interested in your answer, and your rationalization for your actions and words. I do not expect an answer, but if you want support from WE THE PEOPLE, making a decent argument as to why we should support you would be in your best interest would it not?

  4. Tom Vanciel said:

    Miniture horses measure 42″ at the withers.

    Yaks measure 38″ at the withers.

    Yaks eat less and are the most efficiant bovine in converting feed into body mass, requiring the least forage of all domesticated animals.

    The yak has been domesticated nearly 4000 years.

    It is obsered to allow a miniture horse and not a yak.

    But this speaks to the economic forces that wish me to buy pasturized milk.
    Floridated water
    and remain silent about treason.

    Yaks make no noise.

  5. Tom Vanciel said:

    I reside in the settlement district of Arcata.

    The block from which my parcel is carved once was a homestead parcel.

    a draft animal and dariy animals along with sheep, dogs and poulty
    where allowable under zoning ord.

    I assert that the City is attempting to intimidate me from exercising my property rights.

  6. Tom Vanciel said:

    Mark Sailors?

    You are a curious man to think that just because you ask your queries
    will be answered.

    Just such an ego confront “I” daily.

    Never the less…

    -Good journolistic practice would dictate subject review.

    -Federal privacy laws protect medical information.

    Civil court may award damages to loss of reputation which now is
    forever stigmatized.

    -as regards to the lack of proffered offers of assistance…

    I would not expect one point of light from a thousand in the NGO

    I’m dismayed that no offers of assistance are presented by my

    Rather they wish to sends armed police without warrant to “investigate” code violations.


  7. Ian Ray said:

    Mark, after California aligns its service animal policy with the new ADA policy, there can be some more species restrictions. A service yakalo isn’t the strangest instance thanks to Hesperia city council voting to allow rats as service animals.

  8. Mark Sailors said:

    The state and counties issues service animal tags, but under the old federal law it was almost impossible to enforce any type of no animals policy because people claimed federal protection for things like “service yaks.”
    I love service dogs. People with disabilities need all the help they can get to live more normal lives.

  9. Ian Ray said:

    Mark Sailors, national ADA definitions do not overrule state definitions unless state definitions disallow provisions granted in national definitions. California regulations still cover a wide range of animals regardless of the March 11 national changes.

  10. kevpod said:

    Tom, the answer is that my last e-mail to you went unanswered and then you moved away.

    Now you’re back, and from what I am told by people within earshot of your house, still yelling. If you’d like to communicate on some substantive basis and at moderate volume levels, you can e-mail me or call.

    I don’t know of anyone who has any ill will for you, and everyone would like you to get whatever help you need. Maybe dial down the hostility and you’ll start getting better results.

  11. Mark Sailors said:

    Since when does a newspaper reporter need to vet the story they are writing with the subject?
    How did Kevin violate your rights as a disabled person?
    What help was not “proffered” to you?
    Just curious?
    I do know that the “service yak” thing makes it very hard for people with ACTUAL service dogs to take there companions with them because people see the yak and think the whole service animal thing is some sort of joke.
    Thank goodness the ADA limited “service” animals to dogs and /or selected minihorses.

  12. Tom Vanciel said:

    why did you publish this story without letting me the subject review it for errors?

    Actually I believe you may have violated my rights as a disabled citizen.

    What government agency is there to protect the rights of the mentally impaired?

    This community apparantly is aware that there exist a problem, Yet no offer of help is proffered?

    Tom Vanciel

  13. yakalover said:

    Great read Kevin.

    I hope this guy finds a suitable place for his herd!

  14. Mr.Z said:

    I think Mr. Vanciel is a whole lot smarter than the rest of us.

  15. Ian Ray said:

    Do goats and yakalos interact socially? I’ve heard of people getting a pygmy goat to keep a large goat happy when one of a mating pair of goats dies. Perhaps the yakalo and the goat got along.

    I once knew a person who had many animals and a lone duck. The duck still seemed very sad, it only wanted to interact with humans despite the company of other non-duck animals.

  16. kevpod said:

    I have no information that Tom was ever unkind to his animals; all I saw was love for them. It’s the human creatures he had trouble relating to. His neighbor said that when spending quality time with his beasts, he was placid.

  17. Deb said:

    With his anger issues, I am really concerned for the welfare of those poor animals.

  18. HumSD said:

    Holly is correct, now only dogs are allowed to be service animals with a provision for mini guide ponies-not yaks!!

    I do feel sorry for those poor animals being kept in such a small yard. Goats, yaks, sheeps, etc; really need more grazing space.

  19. Holly said:

    Thankfully, under the revisions to the ADA that took place in March of this year, only dogs are considered service animals, with some provisions made for miniature guide horses. Then again, only dogs are prohibited from the plaza, not goats and yaks…

Comments are closed.