REDDING, Calif. – A Northern California family is filing a federal lawsuit against sheriff’s deputies for seizing a young girl’s pet goat, Cedar, which was later slaughtered at a local auction.
Shasta County engineer Jessica Long and her minor daughter filed the lawsuit against Shasta County Sheriff’s Office officials, Lt. Jerry Fernandez and detectives Jacob Duncan and Jeremy Ashbee.
In the suit, filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California’s Sacramento Division, Long and her daughter accused two deputies of driving to Sonoma County to seize the pet before the Shasta Youth Livestock Auction.
The lawsuit says Cedar belonged to Long’s daughter, who is under 10 years old and entered the goat in the youth auction as part of a 4-H Club activity.
Initially, Long said, neither she nor her daughter realized that Cedar had been entered into a “terminal auction” – where the animal is slaughtered after the auction ends, with the cuts of meat going to the top bidder.
The highest bid, $902, was placed by California state Sen. Brian Dahle, according to the lawsuit.
But Long’s daughter had “ended up bonding with Cedar and didn’t want him killed,” said Ryan Gordon, Long’s attorney, who filed the lawsuit and represents Advancing Law for Animals.
Joining 4-H was something Long said her daughter “could do with friends and she loves animals.”
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The goat was three or four months old when the family got him and six or seven months old when he was entered in the youth auction in late June at the Shasta District Fairgrounds in Anderson, California.
The girl exhibited Cedar at the Shasta District Fair in the junior livestock auction on June 24.
“She wanted to pull Cedar out that day and was told she couldn’t,” by fair officials, Gordon said. Fair officials said terminating their participation was not allowed, even though the family offered multiple times to pay for any losses or damages, Gordon said.
Said Long: “We were told to leave them in the pens that last night and that a truck would come load all those animals. It was like 530 animals, so a truck would take them all. I didn’t know going in that that’s how the end would look like.”
Instead, Long and her daughter left the fairgrounds with Cedar.
Anticipating their decision not to turn Cedar over might spark controversy in their “agricultural community,” the lawsuit said, Long took Cedar to a farm in Sonoma County on June 26.
On that same day, the complaint said, Shasta Fair Association livestock manager BJ Macfarlane called Long “and demanded that Cedar be returned” or Long would be charged with grand theft, a felony under California law.
Calls for comment to Shasta County Fairgrounds officials and to Dahle’s office were not returned.
In the suit, Long said she reached out to Dahle to explain the situation and request that he forgo any rights to the goat.
In response, the lawsuit said, “Senator Dahle’s representatives informed her that he would not resist her efforts to save Cedar from slaughter.”
On June 27, Long made a written offer to pay to resolve the matter involving the goat, a request that the Shasta Fair Association rejected, the lawsuit said.
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Rather than file a civil action in the case, “the Shasta Fair Association and Macfarlane elected to avoid the courts and instead resort to the strong-arm tactics of involving law enforcement,” the complaint said.
The court issued a warrant for the search and seizure of the goat on July 8.
That same day, two of the three officers named in the lawsuit – Fernandez and Duncan – drove to the Sonoma farm and seized Cedar, the suit said.
The officers then delivered Cedar to the Shasta District fairgrounds to “third parties” that the sheriff’s office had deemed to be Cedar’s owners, the lawsuit said. Those unknown third parties have either slaughtered Cedar or sent him to slaughter, according to the lawsuit.
“The reason why that matters is because cops don’t get to decide who’s the owner,” said Gordon. “They’re doing investigation. That’s what (the) due process clause is.”
Long called what happened “a sad and shocking surprise. If a judge ordered me to bring him back, I would’ve brought him back. We never got to that point.”
As for her daughter, Long said, “she did like goats and would like a goat or a horse someday, or both.”
Asked for comment, Shasta County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tim Mapes said via email, “due to pending litigation we are unable to comment.”
The lawsuit asks for actual and punitive damages, along with attorney’s fees.
Follow Michele Chandler on Twitter at @MChandler_RS.
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