- A lawsuit accuses police of unjustly seizing a 9-year-old girl’s pet goat amid a custody dispute.
- The goat had been entered into a youth livestock auction and sold for $903.
- But the “thought of him going to slaughter was something [the girl] could not bear,” the lawsuit says.
Cedar was a beloved pet goat, raised since he was a baby by a 9-year-old girl who did not want him to die.
But after she and her family tried to pull him from a youth livestock auction, the operators of the sale called the police, who then seized the animal, according to a lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California.
The suit accuses police of unjustly acting as judges — and, perhaps, executioners — when they picked sides in a case over disputed property, took a pet goat, and enabled “the apparent slaughter of Cedar for a community barbecue,” as The Sacramento Bee reported.
Cedar is now presumed dead.
The saga began last June, when Jessica Long took her daughter, who was active in her local 4-H club, to the Shasta District Fair. There, Cedar was meant to be sold off. But before bidding began, the lawsuit states, her family sought to pull him from the auction, the reality of what it meant having set in.
Fair authorities would not allow it and Cedar was auctioned, as meat, for $902. The fair itself was to pocket $63.14 from the sale.
But the goat’s young caretaker would not leave him. She “loved Cedar,” the lawsuit states, “and the thought of him going to slaughter was something she could not bear.”
Unwilling to send him off to die, the Long family took Cedar back home the day of the auction and then, according to their lawsuit, offered to compensate the fair for any lost earnings. In an email, which the fair operators acknowledge receiving, Jessica Long asked for understanding, explaining that it was wrenching to see her daughter sob the day Cedar was to be auctioned.
“Our daughter lost three grandparents within the last year and our family has had so much heartbreak and sadness that I couldn’t bear the thought of the following weeks of sadness after the slaughter,” she wrote. In a subsequent email, she asserted continued ownership over Cedar.
Instead of seeking to resolve the matter civilly, the lawsuit alleges that the fair went to the police, disregarding the claim of ownership and asserting that its property had been stolen. In an email obtained by The Sacramento Bee, a representative told the family that while they were “not unsympathetic regarding your daughter and her love” for the goat, the auction was a matter of teaching children “responsibility and for the future generations of ranchers and farmers to learn the process and effort it takes to raise quality meat.”
Fair leadership, instead of resolving the matter civilly, then went to the police, who the lawsuit accuses of disregarding the competing claims of ownership. Sheriff’s deputies obtained a search warrant for a local goat sanctuary where they falsely believed he was being held; Cedar was ultimately found hundreds of miles away at another farm, in Sonoma County, where the Long family had placed him as the dispute over custody played out.
“Our clients can’t get complete justice in this case,” attorney Vanessa Shakib, co-founder of the firm Advancing Law for Animals, told Insider. “The sheriff’s deputies took that from them when they violated due process and turned Cedar over for slaughter.”
Shakib said that the family simply wants recognition that the proper legal process was not followed in this case. “We want to make sure this never happens again,” she said.
“Given this reality, at a minimum, we are looking for recognition of the constitutional and statutory violations that took place here. We want to make sure this never happens again.”
The family’s lawsuit was originally filed last year and listed several members of the local police as defendants, accusing them of seizing Cedar before any judge had weighed in on the ownership claims. An amended version of the lawsuit, filed in early March, expanded that list to include the County of Shasta, the local Sheriff’s Department, and the Shasta District Fair and Event Center.
A representative for the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department declined to respond to the Long family’s allegations, citing the ongoing litigation. Other parties, including the fair, did not respond to requests for comment. The defendants have all denied wrongdoing.
Read the lawsuit:
Have a news tip? Email this reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org