Twenty-eight malnourished and sick animals are in the care of veterinarians after state officials on Tuesday seized them from a farmer in Sidney who has a history of animal offenses.

The 23 goats, four calves and a chicken were taken from farmer Mark Gould’s Drummond Avenue property after four state humane agents, with help from state police and Animal Control Officer Chris Martinez, searched the farm, said Liam Hughes, director of the Animal Welfare Program in the Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry.

“Most of them were malnourished or had physical ailments that needed to be seen by veterinarians,” Hughes said Thursday.

Gould has a history of animal-related offenses, including being investigated in April for reports that he left dead livestock where they lay on the farm grounds.

In 2011 and again last summer, he was charged with animal trespassing for allowing his goats to leave his property and wander onto neighbors’ land or busy Interstate 95.

The Agriculture Department earlier this year referred the April dead livestock case to the state attorney general’s office for enforcement of a civil violation after officials did a third site visit this spring. Calls Thursday to both that office and the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office were not returned immediately.

Hughes said state officials work with farmers who have animals with problems to help educate them about how to care for their animals and provide services and contacts. They did so with Gould, he said, but with no success.

“When we have a situation like this with animals in desperate need of help and not getting it, we had to act,” Hughes said.

Officials went to the farm Tuesday after receiving reports that animals might be in distress.

Hughes said the department has requested a court hearing in the animal seizure case, asking a judge to give the state custody of the malnourished animals so they can be evaluated and receive appropriate medical care.

Hughes declined to comment on whether charges were or will be filed against Gould, but he said officials are working on the case, building evidence and discussing it with the district attorney’s office.

Hughes wouldn’t say where the animals were taken or release pictures of them, but he said once the case moves further along, that information may be available.

Gould said Thursday by telephone that most of the animals the state seized are those that he had bought in the last few months at Somerset Auctions in Fairfield, where he works. He said they were sick when he bought them, and he has been trying to nurse them back to health.

He said some animals are in such poor shape he buys them for $10.

“I buy all the bottom of the barrel,” he said. “Either you bring them back to health or they die.”

Hughes said the seized animals are being kept “in protective custody.”

“They’re technically evidence,” he said of the animals.

He said officials are very protective of animals in such cases.

“We’re getting them out of a bad situation,” he said. “It’s a very stressful situation for animals and people alike. We try to limit exposure to it.”

Gould said he is concerned the animals are not being cared for properly now, and he wants them back. “They’re still my animals,” he said.

The state didn’t seize cows Gould has had for a longer time, he said.

Hughes confirmed that about 12 adult cows that were not at immediate risk for injury or illness were not taken. He said that he’s “heard before” that Gould bought sick animals, but he wouldn’t comment further on it.

Meanwhile, he said help is available for people who might be overwhelmed with caring for animals, and they should contact an animal control officer, University of Maine Cooperative Extension or the state Department of Agriculture.

“They’re assets for the community,” he said of the resources. “They have that information to help bring everybody up to the same standards and make sure animals get the care they need.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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