Hunt For Chocolate Factory's Missing Goats After Beloved Pets Stolen On Christmas
Residents in the Yarra Valley have banded together to find three beloved pet goats who were stolen from the local Chocolaterie on Christmas Day.
The Yarra Valley Chocolaterie only closes one day a year, and it is then that thieves are believed to have struck, taking beloved goats Fudgy, Vanilla and Nelly, and leaving behind a cut fence and tyre marks in the paddock.
Since news of the disappearance was shared, locals have been on the hunt, with some following trucks carrying goats, and many calling in leads.
Kate Toulier, who works at the chocolaterie, told 10 daily the more than 90 staff members were all very upset at the theft of the 'much-loved' goats.
I don't know why anyone would take them from such a happy environment.
"They are fed very well: kitchen scraps and even scones, ice cream, and chocolate from customers," she said.
The three male goats were part of a larger pet family of donated and rescue animals including other goats, alpacas, cows, sheep, and a black and white pig, who all live on the grounds together.
"Their paddock friends and other pets are feeling very lonely."
"Nothing has ever been stolen from here, let alone our beloved farm animals," Toulier said.
The goats were a tourist drawcard for the chocolaterie, which welcomes around 800,000 visitors through its doors each year.
Chocolaterie owner Leanne Neeland told 10 daily she had been overwhelmed by the community response to the theft of her 'three beautiful babies'.
It seems to be the most important crime in Yarra Valley at the moment.
"We've had lots and lots of leads -- its adorable that everyone is so passionate about the goats. All our pets are loved but of course, you have your favourites," she said.
A Facebook post outlining the theft and pleading for community assistance to help track the goats down has been shared thousands of times and reached almost 300,000 people.
"Lots of people are offering us their goats and reaching out to us. One person even followed a trailer with three goats in it -- turns out it wasn't ours though."
Neeland said a reward will be offered to anyone with information on where the goats are: "Money, chocolate, VIP guest forever, chocolate hampers sent forever... Whatever they want," she told 10 daily.
"It's just cruel. I'm trying not to think about where they are now."
She has asked anyone with information on the goats' whereabouts, or anyone who noticed anything suspicious in the area on Christmas day or to contact her team on 03 9730 2777, or notify Yarra Glen police station.
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