A 9-year-old girl in California brought her beloved pet goat to a fair for a livestock auction last June. Someone bid on the goat, but the girl, not wanting to part with the animal, didn’t give it up. Days later, two sheriff’s officers drove 500 miles to find the goat and seize it for slaughter.
The girl, identified as E.L. in court documents because she is a minor, and her mother, Jessica Long, are now suing the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department and Shasta County Fair, accusing them of wrongly seizing and killing the goat, named Cedar.
Before bidding began on the livestock auction, the plaintiffs tried to back out, the lawsuit reads. Still, California State Sen. Brian Dahle, through his agent, bid $902.00 on the goat and won. About $63 of that went to the fair, the rest went to Cedar’s owners. Only, they didn’t want to sell Cedar for any amount.
“After the auction, Plaintiff E.L. would not leave Cedar’s side,” the suit reads. “Plaintiff E.L. loved Cedar and the thought of him going to slaughter was something she could not bear. While sobbing in his pen beside him, Plaintiff E.L. communicated to her mother she didn’t want Cedar to go to slaughter.”
As a minor, E.L. has “statutory rights” to disaffirm contracts, according to California law, the suit reads. She tried to terminate the sale of Cedar with the fair and she and her mother took Cedar to a farm in Sonoma County, over 200 miles away to “ameliorate any potential rifts” over the goat.
But BJ Macfarlane, a defendant in the case and the livestock manager for the Shasta Fair Association, demanded Cedar be returned for slaughter.
Long pleaded with Macfarlane in texts and a letter and said the fair could keep the full $902.00 payment for Cedar. She also contacted the winning bidder, Dahle, whose representatives said “he would not resist her efforts to save Cedar from slaughter.”
Still, the defendants accused Long of theft, and got a criminal search warrant in order to have the goat seized. And on July 8, Lieutenant Jerry Fernandez and Detective Jacob Duncan executed that warrant, driving about 10 hours to seize the goat.
The fair employees then slaughtered Cedar late at night after the deputies dropped him off, the suit alleges.
The plaintiffs say the deputies’ actions were outside the scope of the theft investigation and that the staff members of the fair were not part of any investigation or administrative or judicial proceeding that would allow them to take the goat.
They say several of their rights were violated during the ordeal, including their Fourth Amendment right “to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures of their property,” as well as their right to due process and they believe they are entitled to compensatory damages for loss of property.
The Longs are being represented by lawyers from Advancing Law for Animals, a nonprofit that handles complex animal law cases. The organization’s co-director Vanessa Shakib said in a statement to CBS News that the case is a “gross miscarriage of justice and absolute failure of priorities.”
“Government officials abused their authority to terrorize a little girl by turning a purely civil dispute into a criminal circus – where they acted as judge, jury, and executioner in violation of the law,” she said.
Shakib said her minor client “owned Cedar and had a right under California law to disaffirm any agreement that may have existed.” She said the disagreement should’ve been treated like a property dispute in court, not with the cops. “Government officials seized and killed a child’s beloved pet without any due process or notice to her. We should be very concerned when armed men come with a warrant to breach doorways to seize a nine-year-old’s beloved pet. This is outrageous and textbook government overreach.”
The trial date is set for Oct. 7, 2024. The amount of damages sought by the plaintiffs will be determined at trial.
CBS News has reached out to a lawyer for the defendants and is awaiting response.