California deputies use tax dollars to travel 500 miles, cross 6 counties to kill pet goat: Lawsuit
SHASTA COUNTY, Calif. - A mother of a 9-year-old is suing the Shasta District Fair and Event Center (Shasta Fair Association), the County of Shasta, and the Shasta County Sheriff's Department after allegedly seizing a pet goat named Cedar and slaughtering it, according to a lawsuit.
In a lawsuit first filed in August 2022, mother Jessica Long said Shasta Fair Association fair officials used "strong-arm" tactics to forcibly seize a pet belonging to her daughter, referred to as "E.L." using law enforcement.
Long and her lawyers, Ryan R. Gordan and Vanessa T. Shakib with Advancing Law for Animals and Daniel J. Kolde, stated Lt. Jerry Fernandez, Det. Jacob Duncan, Det. Jeremy Ashbee, and 10 other unnamed deputies violated the Long family's Fourth and 14th amendments in their actions of taking, slaughtering, then barbequing E.L.'s goat from the Sonoma Farm in Sonoma County last July.
It all started when E.L., as a member of the local 4-H youth group, participated in a junior livestock auction on June 24, 2022, at the annual Shasta District Fair, the lawsuit said. Before the bidding took place, the Longs allegedly tried to withdraw their participation in the auction but were denied by fair officials, saying it wasn't allowed.
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Lawyers for the Longs said no such rules that are "legally enforceable" existed.
According to the lawsuit, the ownership of Cedar is to the Long family, as they first purchased the goat. In their lawsuit, they said the Shasta Fair Association that anyone "exhibiting" the animals must be the legal owners and that their entry form for the auction "conceded" E.L. as Cedar's legal owner.
The lawyers reported that the fair had no ownership of the goat because of E.L.'s and Cedar's attendance and that at most they were only entitled to a certain amount after Cedar was sold, according to the association's rules.
Cedar's "meat cuts," and not Cedar itself, were sold to State Sen. Brian Dahle for $902.00. Dahle later told Long that he did not object to saving Cedar from slaughter and "effectively waived his rights to Cedar," after she reached out to his office, according to the lawsuit.
"It is noteworthy that Cedar’s successful bidder was not entitled to, and did not purchase, Cedar…there was nothing about the cuts of meat obtained from Cedar’s slaughter that were unique or special property for legal purposes as to any bidder," said the lawsuit.
However, this did not deter fair officials who then reached out to the local sheriff's department to have Cedar forcibly returned, Long's lawyers said.
Long alleged she tried to settle with the fair officials, writing a letter and offering to pay for any losses and/or damages that would arise in sparing the life of Cedar.
"My daughter sobbed in her pen with her goat…The barn was mostly empty and at the last minute I decided to break the rules and take the goat that night and deal with the consequences later," Long told the Los Angeles Times.
"Heartbreaking .... 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 [of Cedar] ...," said Long according to the lawsuit.
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After making such an offer, Long then took Cedar 200 miles away to the Sonoma Farm in Sonoma County to avoid "[upsetting] other 4-H members and community members" by having the goat in their possession.
Shasta County deputies would later first travel to Bleating Hearts Farm, an animal sanctuary in Napa County after mistakenly believing Cedar was there, then to the Sonoma Farm to remove Cedar without any legal right, traveling over 500 miles at "taxpayer expense" and crossing six county lines, the lawsuit said.
In her attempts to save Cedar, Long said she was threatened by fair officials on being charged with a felony.
KTVU has reached out to Long's lawyers, Bleating Hearts Farm, the County of Shasta, the Shasta County Sheriff's Department, and the Shasta Fair Association.
"Fair officials and sheriffs abused their power to teach this little girl a lesson. She bonded with Cedar like we bond with our dogs. And as his owner and a minor, she had the right under California law to reject the money and save his life. So to open a sham criminal grand theft investigation, then drive 500 miles at taxpayer expense, is appalling. The reality is, if anyone here stole a goat, it was the sheriffs and the Shasta Fair," said Gordon.
Gordon additionally said to the L.A. Times, "It’s shocking…it’s a little girl’s goat, not Pablo Escobar."
None of the remaining parties involved have reached back to KTVU; though a lawyer for the County told the L.A. Times that as it's an "active litigation," they nor county officials can't provide comment.
Cedar the goat
The sheriff's department told the New York Post that "Unfortunately, due to pending litigation we are unable to comment."
It's unclear if the same counsel is representing both the County and the Sheriff's Department.
Shasta County, The Shasta County Sheriff's Office, and the three deputies did provide their "operative answer" regarding the lawsuit to Gordon and Shakib.
In their answer, they did say that while they did "retrieve" a goat named Cedar, all other allegations made against them by Long and her advocates either do not require a response or deny "each and every allegation" in the parts requiring a response on whether or not they illegally seized Cedar or violated E.L's rights granted Fourth and 14th amendments or any other accusation mentioned.
The only information they did confirm with the original lawsuit are the parties involved on the plaintiff's side and that the Shasta County Court has jurisdiction.
A petition has since been created for justice for the Long family which can be accessed here.
O. Gloria Okorie is a digital reporter for KTVU. Email O. Gloria at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 510-874-0175. Follow her on Twitter @ogloriaokorie.