Jessica Long’s kid spent three months walking and feeding their goat, Cedar, and developing a special relationship with the brown and white floppy-eared animal. Last year at the Shasta District Fair, the 9-year-old kid who owned Cedar refused to let him be sold and butchered.

On June 27, 2022, Long wrote to the manager of the Shasta County fair to report that her daughter had “sobbed in her enclosure with her goat.” “It was late, the barn was vacant, and I was determined to steal the goat that night regardless of the repercussions.”

They have long bought a goat from participating in the Shasta District Fair’s 4-H programme with her kid. Young people are instructed in animal husbandry. To educate youngsters about the hard labor and care required by farmers and ranchers to produce livestock and supply food, the animals are placed into an auction, where they are sold and subsequently killed for meat.

Credit: Advancing Law for Animals

Long begged the fair to make an exception and let her and her daughter reclaim Cedar in their letter. The letter she sent, which was seen by The Times, also included an offer to “repay back for the goat and any other expenditures I incurred.” But, she knew that Cedar had already been sold at auction.

Instead, they contacted the sheriff’s department in Shasta County. Investigators travelled almost 500 miles throughout Northern California to pursue the goat, using their search warrant as legal justification.

Although Bleating Hearts Farm and Sanctuary in Napa County had posted on Instagram its support for Long and encouraged people to phone the Shasta District Fair to enable them to save Cedar, the sheriff’s department assumed Cedar was staying there at the time of the search. Long’s family lives in a residential area in Shasta County, so they are not allowed to have farm animals there. Thus Cedar was brought by Long to a farm in Sonoma County.

Deputies were permitted to “use breaching equipment to force open doorway(s), and other openings, as well as locked containers” and search all rooms, places, and “storage rooms, and other rooms of any kind large enough to house a small goat” in the warrant, language reminiscent of a drug raid. Cedar was kidnapped and killed.

Since then, Long has filed a federal lawsuit against the fair’s organisers and the county, claiming they engaged in an “egregious waste of police resources” and violated the due process and protections guaranteed by the 4th and 14th amendments to her and her daughter’s constitution. According to Long’s legal team, the conflict was a civil one that she was open to settling.

The dispute over Cedar, a pet goat owned by a 9-year-old girl, quickly escalated, as evidenced by letters, texts, a search warrant, and other court documents reviewed by The Times. Shasta District Fair officials took to using police resources after recognizing that their handling of the dispute had become “a negative experience for the fairgrounds as this has been all over social media like Facebook and Instagram.”

“It was never about money,” said Long’s lawyer, Vanessa Shakib of Advancing Law for Animals. As one official put it, the county authorities’ intent to teach this little girl a lesson was crystal plain. Officials from the Shasta District Fair and the county did not return calls seeking comment.

Attorney for Shasta County Christopher Pisano emailed, “This subject is in current legal affairs, and neither the County nor its legal counsel can comment.” Shakib claims that the county and fair authorities acted improperly when a simple breach of contract would have sufficed.

Long’s lawyers said the county’s reaction of sending officers and using the equipment was excessive, given that they were dealing with a family protecting a goat from slaughter. “It’s stunning,” said animal rights lawyer Ryan Gordon of Advancing Law for Animals. “That’s not Pablo Escobar; it’s a young girl’s goat.”

Gordon and Shakib claim that Long emailed proper authorities the day following the incident to try to fix the matter. Long argued her case in the letter, explaining that the last year had been very challenging for her daughter.

She explained to Melanie Silva, chief executive of the Shasta District Fair, that her daughter had recently lost three grandparents and that the family had been through so much heartbreak and sadness that she couldn’t bear the thought of the subsequent weeks of sorrow after the slaughter of her first livestock animal. As Long tried to find a better solution for Cedar than returning it to be butchered and donated for a BBQ, authorities at the Shasta District Fair threatened to call the police the next day.

In a June 28, 2022, email seen by The Times, Silva responded to Long, “Creating an exception for you would just educate [our] students that they do not have to adhere to the regulations.” However, in the age of modern media, this has been a bad thing for the fairgrounds since it has been shared widely on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Later that day, B.J. Long received a text message from Macfarlane, the livestock manager for the Shasta Fair Assn. The letter stated, “We need to make plans to get goat back today.” Otherwise, authorities will be called in to investigate. Long offered to reimburse the fair district and the bidder for any expenses. State Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) placed the winning bid of $902 plus the fair’s 7% take of $63.14.

Long mentioned her conversation with Dahle’s office on June 27, 2022, and how a representative informed her that Dahle was “okay with the alternative solution of the goat getting donated to a farm that does weed abatement.” This was part of Long’s letter to Silva, which Silva received the following day.

A representative of Dahle’s office verified the story. Gordon and Shakib said that under California law, a juvenile might back out of a contract “within a reasonable length of time,” which is what the proper authorities attempted to do when they tried to make Long’s daughter stick to her word the goat would be slain.

A youngster “cannot be held to the same standard as an adult,” Gordon said. She was well within her rights to leave at any time. Gordon maintains that the county, aware of the ownership issue, has a legal obligation to protect and care for Cedar. When deputies brought him back. However, a third group was waiting and murdered him.

The attorneys claim the county murdered the goat to stop Long and her daughter’s struggle for Cedar by using the warrant “for the express purpose of avoiding the civil procedure.” Shakib said, “the government was trying to stifle our client’s voice.” Legal action was taken because “public authorities violated the law and enacted a personal vengeance against a small child merely because she loved her goat,” as stated in the complaint.