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Girl's Effort to Save Pet Goat Ends in Heartbreak, Lawsuit

State fair officials got police involved after owners rescued goat from livestock auction
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2023 2:30 PM CDT
Updated Apr 1, 2023 6:00 AM CDT
Girl's Effort to Save Pet Goat Ends in Heartbreak, Lawsuit
Lawyers believe Cedar, a white and brown goat like this one, was donated to a barbecue.   (Getty Images/cb34inc)

When a 9-year-old girl in California decided that she didn't want the 7-month-old goat she had raised to be slaughtered and eaten, officials went to great lengths to ensure the animal did not escape its fate, according to a lawsuit filed by the girl's mother. The federal civil rights lawsuit states that Jessica Long bought Cedar the goat in April last year for her daughter, a member of a 4-H group, to enter in an auction at the Shasta District Fair in Northern California, reports the Sacramento Bee. But the girl bonded with the goat and the family tried to withdraw the goat from the June 25 auction. The lawsuit states that after the goat was sold and the girl was sobbing in its pen on the last night of the fair, Long decided to break the rules and take the goat. She informed the fair that she would "make it right with the buyer and the fairgrounds."

Cedar was sold to a representative of state Sen. Brian Dahle for $902, with $63.14 to go the fair and the rest to go to the Long family. Long says she offered to reimburse Dahle's office, which did not object to the girl saving the goat from slaughter. The fair, however, got the police involved in what should have been a civil case and threatened grand theft charges, the lawsuit states. Shasta County sheriff's officials obtained a search warrant on July 8 and drove hundreds of miles to a farm where they believed Cedar was, spending far more on gas than the fair would have received from the sale, the Bee reports. They found the goat at another farm Long had emailed seeking help and took it back to Shasta County.

It's not clear what happened to Cedar next, but lawyers believe the goat was slaughtered and donated to a community barbecue. "Looking at this case, what we see is county and fair officials improperly used their authority and connections to transform a purely civil dispute into a sham criminal matter," says attorney Vanessa Shakib at the Advancing Law for Animals nonprofit. The lawsuit states that deputies "left their jurisdiction in Shasta County, drove over 500 miles at taxpayer expense, and crossed approximately six separate county lines, all to confiscate a young girl's beloved pet goat," according to a petition.

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Last September, Long told the New York Times that the family bought the goat when it was a baby and it became like a pet, with her daughter walking it on a leash like a puppy. In emails seen by the Bee, Shasta District Fair CEO Melanie Silva told Long that the fair was set up for "future generations of ranchers and farmers to learn the process and effort it takes to raise quality meat," and that making an exception for her daughter would teach youth "they do not have to abide by the rules." (More goats stories.)

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