LOS ANGELES — Many Ohio Valley families are familiar with the 4-H program. It teaches children how to care for farm animals, and the process of what happens from farm to table as the animals are auctioned off to provide meat for consumers.
Children often spend months with these animals, not only learning how to care for them, but also bonding with them in the process. In a story brought to light by the Los Angeles Times, California mom Jessica Long’s daughter learned a tough life lesson during her time in 4-H.
According to the story, the 9-year-old just couldn’t go through with the slaughter of her beloved companion, Cedar, a brown and white floppy eared goat.
Cedar was auctioned off to the highest bidder at the Shasta District Fair. Long says that her daughter sat in the pen with the goat and sobbed. A heart-breaking experience for any parent, Long took matters in to her own hands. She went on to explain that the pen Cedar was in was mostly empty and at the last minutes she decided to break the rules and take the goat that night and deal with the consequences later.
According to the letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Long wrote to the fair officials asking that they make an exception and allow her to purchase Cedar back, offering the payment price and any additional expenses the new owner may have incurred,
Fair officials did not make an exception for the child’s feelings or the life of Cedar, instead, they reached out the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office.
The story states that the deputies for the sheriff’s office drove 500 miles roundtrip across Northern California in search of Cedar. Deputies first believed that the goat was located at Bleating Hearts Farm and Sanctuary in Napa County, according to the search warrant. The rescue group had posted on Instagram and Facebook in support for Long, urging people to call the Shasta District Fair and ask to spare Cedar.
Cedar had actually been taken to a farm in Sonoma County, California, 250 miles from Shasta County, since she cannot keep farm animals in the residential area that she lives.
The search warrant allowed deputies to use breaching equipment to force open doorways, entry doors, and locked containers to search any where large enough to house a goat.
Law enforcement found Cedar, and he was taken to slaughter.
Long has filed a federal lawsuit against Shasta District Fair Officials and the county. She argues that they wasted police resources and violated her and her daughter’s Fourth Amendment rights that protect them from unreasonable searches and seizures, and due process. Attorneys for Long allege that the dispute is a civil matter she is willing to resolve.
The Los Angeles Times reviewed letters, text messages, the search warrant and other court documents to see how a dispute over a goat could escalate so quickly. Shasta District Fair officials noted that their handling of the dispute had become a negative experience for the fairgrounds, Long’s story has been shared all over Facebook and Instagram.
Attorneys for Advancing Law for Animals, who also represent Long, say that the reaction by county officials was never about money, it was about wanting to teach a little girl a lesson.
Long says that she tried to explain to fair officials in an email that she was not looking to simply break the rules to break them. That she was trying to prevent her daughter from experiencing more heartbreak after losing three grandparents in the last year.
The Los Angeles Times reviewed the response to that email from the Shasta District Fair Chief Executive, that said by making an exception for Long they would only teach youth that they do not have to abide by the rules.
The paper also reviewed a text that Long received from the livestock manager for the Shasta Fair Association that stated they needed to make arrangements to get the goat back before law enforcement was brought into the situation.
Long explained that she reached out to the winning bidder of Cedar, made by California State Sen. Brian Dahle. She spoke to a representative at Dahle’s office and was told that the lawmaker agreed to an alternative solution of the goat getting donated to a farm that does weed abatement.
Long’s lawyers argue that although officials were trying to hold Long’s daughter to her agreement that the goat would be slaughtered, California Law allows a minor to withdraw from a contract “within a reasonable amount of time.” They said that a child cannot be held to the same standard as an adult, and when she wanted out, she had an absolute right.
The attorneys say that the county used the warrant to circumvent the civil process, and killed the goat as a way to end Long’s fight for Cedar. They say the county was legally required to keep and care for Cedar since there was a dispute over ownership.
Long’s attorneys say that their lawsuit seeks to hold public officials accountable for violating the law and enacting a personal vendetta against a little girl for loving her goat.