Have you ‘herd’? While politicians vacation, goats hard at work in Washington

Jeff Zeleny, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players
Have you ‘herd’? While politicians vacation, goats hard at work in Washington

The Fine Print

Congress may be out of town for its August recess, but that doesn’t mean that no work is getting done in the nation’s capital.

At the hallowed grounds of the Congressional Cemetery in Southeast Washington, where historical figures like J. Edgar Hoover and John Philip Sousa lay in final rest, a herd of goats has been laboring away in a fenced-off portion of the cemetery, munching down overgrown poison ivy and other weeds.

“We got called in to deal with a problem vegetation issue,” the goats’ keeper, Brian Knox, told “The Fine Print” during an interview, standing in a clearing that was densely covered with ivy just a week before, prior to the goats' arrival.

The non-profit organization that maintains the historical cemetery was concerned the invasive ivy would kill the trees that line the edge of the cemetery and cause them to fall on the historic tombstones. Knox said his Maryland-based Eco-Goats company was uniquely suited to deal with the problem.

“The best place for goats is someplace where people don't want to, or can't, get to,” Knox said. “We've got a steep slope here. We've got lots of downed, woody debris. We've got rocks, piles of stuff. You can't get a machine in here. There was so much poison ivy, nobody really wanted to come in here.”

Their work complete, the last of the goats was leaving Washington today. But before they left town, Knox introduced "The Fine Print" to the herd -- explaining that not every goat has a name.

“You get a name if you've got a lot of charisma or if you're a real pain to work with,” Knox said, pointing out some of the herd’s big personalities. “So that really tall guy there, our big man, Larry. He can reach all those things that nobody else can.”

Knox said this was the goat’s first project in the district.

“It’s been really fun just because of the number of people coming in and, of course, not having anything else going on in D.C. has led to a lot of press,” Knox said.

Zee-the-Goat declined to comment on camera when asked whether she agreed that the project was fun, but Knox said there was not much difference between the goats' work and an all-you-can-eat buffet.

“There's no exploitation,” Knox said. “They're doing what goats do.”

To meet the rest of the herd and to hear about the history of other pasturing animals in Washington, check out this episode of “The Fine Print.”

ABC's Michael Conte, Mike LaBella, Hank Brown, and Bob Bramson contributed to this episode.