There’s some Baa-d Blood between a California woman and her local county fair.
Jessica Long is suing officials from the Shasta County District Fair after law enforcement officials seized a goat that belonged to her daughter. The goat was auctioned off and set to be slaughtered, but Long kidnapped the goat during the fair, forcing officials to obtain a search warrant to get it back.
According to legal documents from the suit, obtained by the Sacramento Bee, Jessica Long’s 9-year-old daughter purchased a white Boer goat named Cedar; the girl fed and cared for the goat every day, and eventually developed a bond with the goat. The family then entered Cedar into a junior livestock auction at the Shasta County District Fair. The Los Angeles Times notes that the fair, which is partnered with the county 4-H program, teaches children how to care for animals; the animals are then sold and slaughtered for meat in order to teach kids about the effort that goes into livestock raising for food. There are “no exceptions,” according to a flyer for the auction.
But the day before the auction, the Long family tried to back out of the auction, which fair officials said was not allowed. The goat was sold to a representative of State Senator Brian Dahle on June 25. But before the last day of the auction, Long decided to take drastic action. “My daughter sobbed in her pen with her goat,” she wrote in a June 27 email to fair officials. “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.”
She tried to make amends with the buyer and the fairgrounds. Dahle’s office did not object to saving the goat, and Long offered to pay back the expense. But state officials said the only acceptable solution was to give Cedar back. “As a mother I am not unsympathetic regarding your daughter and her love for her animal,” Shasta District Fair Chief Executive Officer Melanie Silva wrote in an email to Long. “[T]he fair industry is set up to teach our youth responsibility and for the future generations of ranchers and farmers to learn the process and effort it takes to raise quality meat. Making an exception for you will only teach out [sic] youth that they do not have to abide by the rules that are set up for all participants.”
The problem escalated when an organizer of a community barbecue that Cedar was supposed to be served at contacted lawyers. Officials then contacted Long again, saying that the fair could press felony charges of grand theft for allegedly stealing the goat, and would contact authorities to get it. Two weeks later, the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office filed a search warrant affidavit for permission to seize the goat.
The search warrant targeted a rescue sanctuary in Napa called Bleating Hearts Farm and Sanctuary. It said that property had been “stolen or embezzled”; it permitted police to “utilize breaching equipment to force open doorway(s), entry doors, exit doors, and locked containers in pursuit of their target”; and it listed areas to search, including “[t]he residence, including all rooms, attics, basements, and other parts therein, the surrounding grounds and any garages, sheds, storage rooms, and outbuildings of any kind large enough to accommodate a small goat.”
The goat was not at Bleating Hearts, however, but at another farm in Sonoma County that Long had contacted seeking refuge for Cedar. But Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the second farm and took the goat, reportedly without need for the warrant, since the farm owner gave them permission to take it. The goat’s whereabouts, or whether or not it was slaughtered after all, are not known, but Long’s lawyers speculate that it was slaughtered.
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The lawsuit is being waged in federal court. Long is suing the Sheriff’s office, the county, the fair, and others involved in the slaughter. The suit alleges that officials improperly used their authority and connections and wasted police resources by pressing criminal charges instead of handling the matter civilly. The suit seeks damages and orders preventing the officials from discriminating against Long’s daughter in future activities; along with a second order allowing her to participate in future auctions at the fair, but with an exception allowing her to “disaffirm any contract or obligation to sell any livestock she owns through such an auction.”