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The Plain English Attorney

Pet Seized by Police and Murdered

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Pets are a touchy subject for me. Having long-term pets like our cat Monty (for almost 20 years now) makes me particularly enraged when I read stories of pets being taken away. In this video, I review an article about police seizing a little girl’s pet goat to enforce a contract that the parties didn’t want to be enforced that very likely resulted in the pet goat being killed.



Hi Jeff Marsocci, the plain English attorney and we’re going to try something a little bit different today. We’re going to talk about a controversy that’s going on in the news and some of the legal implications around it. So I’ve got to admit this story kind of enraged me when I read it last night and I decided I’m going to do a video and we’re going to move it up [in the schedule] just because it’s a current story. So we’re going to be moving around some of our other videos.

So the title of this one, from is “Police Traveled 500 Miles to Seize Girl’s Pet Goat for Slaughter.”

“A 9-year-old backed out of a deal to sell her pet goat for slaughter, local officials and sheriff’s deputies used the power of the state to force her to go through with it. A federal civil lawsuit alleges that sheriff’s deputies from Shasta County, California, traveled across the state to seize a little girl’s quote beloved pet goat”, for slaughter. New reporting details how they may have violated the law in doing so, according to the lawsuit.

In June 2022, Jessica Long and her daughter, who was nine years old and only referred to as “E.L.” in the lawsuit as amended, attended the Shasta District Fair. The fair includes a junior livestock auction in which members of 4H youth programs exhibit farm animals they’ve raised. In the end, the animals are sold to the highest bidder to be slaughtered for meat. The Fair takes 7% of the sale and the kids get to keep the rest.

In April, Long purchased her daughter a goat whom she named Cedar. From then, until the fair EL fed and cared for Cedar every day, she bonded with the animal just as she would have bonded with a puppy and loved him as a family pet.

Well, all right, if in terms of livestock and raising that, I’m not a farmer, don’t have a background, but you don’t name animals that are going to be food. But look, she’s nine years old. OK. At the State Fair, Senator Brian Dahle was Cedar’s highest bidder pledging 902 dollars. But by then, EL had second thoughts about sending her four-legged friend to die. She and her mother tried to withdraw Cedar from the competition. And they were told that the rules forbid it. After the auction, EL refused to leave Cedar’s side sobbing next to him in his pen. At this point, before money had changed hands, Long and her daughter sought to terminate the contract.

California Law

And this is an important thing –  California law allows that a contract of a minor may be disaffirmed. So that’s what was going on. No, no, no, no. The money hadn’t changed hands. She didn’t want to do it anymore. They wanted to back out of the contract, which in California, she was allowed to do. Long told representatives at the fair that she would happily pay the 7% fee that would have resulted from the sale, and in this case, that would have been $63.14 and took Cedar home. Anticipating controversy, she later took the goat to another farm in Sonora, more than 200 miles away. But in the following days, B.J. McFarland livestock manager of the Shasta District Fair and Event Center the state agency that runs the fair, called Long and told her that if she did not return Cedar, he would have her charged with felony Grand Theft.

Let’s talk about that for a second. Felony Grand Theft is if she stole someone else’s property. It didn’t become their property. It didn’t end up going to that state representative, because the contract was disaffirmed by a minor child. Therefore, it wasn’t that representative’s property. It wasn’t. It was still with the 9-year-old girl, under the law. So how can you charge the mother with stealing property that she’s holding on behalf of her daughter? But hey, that’s the way they decided they wanted to handle it, to threaten the mom who’s trying to save her daughter’s pet goat with a felony. OK. So she offered to let the Fair Association keep the entire $902.00, but McFarland would not budge. She also reached out to Dahle, the representative, who agreed, he was not going to resist her efforts to save Cedar from the slaughter. He was fine with it, so even if the contract had gone through, the owner was like, no, no, okay, that’s fine. That’s fine. I’m not going to do that.

So in an e-mail to the Fair Association, Long wrote of her efforts to make it right with the buyer and the fairgrounds, mentioning Dahle’s support and offering to pay for the goat and any other expenses I caused. She couldn’t have done and offered more to make it right. What is a civil contract dispute?  But Melanie Silva, CEO of the Fair Association, was unmoved. Silva wrote back that while she was, “not unsympathetic” to EL’s pain. “Please understand the 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 youth that they do not have to abide by the rules that are set up for all participants.”

Your State Fair rules mean crap compared to actual law, and in this case, it was a minor who was allowed to disaffirm the contract and back out of it, which they did. And the “Aggrieved Party” wouldn’t [pursue it], but no. They needed to teach this nine-year-old a lesson and kill her pet. OK. She concluded that “it’s out of my hands” and that Long would need to bring the goat back to the Shasta District Fair immediately.” And I’m adding this in, right, so they could kill it properly.

According to records received by The Sacramento Bee, Silva then emailed an official with the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture, saying that an organizer of a local community BBQ has contacted her lawyers regarding the theft of the goat donated to the BBQ.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. So she made this up. There was no allegation that the organizer of a BBQ was complaining about the theft. In fact, the mom had talked with the State Rep who bought it, and said “No, no, no, it’s fine, it’s fine.” So they just made that crap up.

Pet Seized

Two weeks after the Fair, Shasta Sheriff’s detective Jeremy Ashbee sought and received a search warrant directing two officers to drive more than 500 miles in order to seize Cedar and return him to Shasta County. The warrant authorized a search of a goat rescue in Napa County, but Cedar was not there. That’s what the warrant said. This is where you get to search. So even if all of this wasn’t ridiculous enough and based on incorrect information from that official with the Agriculture Association, they didn’t find them there. So I’m sure the sheriff’s deputies just turned around and went back, right? No. They drove over to Sonoma County and took Cedar from a farm, even though that property wasn’t listed on the warrant. So these Cowboys just decided “Screw the warrant. We need to get this goat.” They claimed that the owner of the farm gave them permission. Well, what do you do then? Two armed sheriff’s deputies show up and say we’re here to get a goat. That’s not even his property. That was just being housed there.  So in one of the court filings, the officers contended that no warrant was necessary to retrieve Cedar on the Sonora farm as they had consent from the property owner to retrieve the goat. Yeah, but it wasn’t his property either.

In an amended complaint filed in February, Long claims the officers were then required by law to hold Cedar or deliver him to the magistrate. So this was “seized property” in a contract dispute, which they shouldn’t have been brought into in the first place. The whole idea, if it is a contract dispute and the police are involved at all, it’s to secure the property. No, that’s not what they did they “independently deemed unknown third parties to be the owners of Cedar and delivered him back to the fairgrounds.”

The fairground that wanted this goat dead, no matter what comes hell or high water, doesn’t matter who or what the parties in the contract agreed to or that it was legally disaffirmed by a minor. They wanted this goat dead to teach everybody a lesson. That was my commentary.

Perplexed, Long is not certain what actually happened to Cedar “At this time, we don’t have that specific information and we can only speculate,” her attorney said. “While it hasn’t been confirmed as a factual matter, we believe the goat Cedar has been killed.”

Well, of course, they needed to do this to a pet goat. It didn’t matter. Look, if it was livestock and this is exactly what was happening and the contract was valid, and not disaffirmed, and the parties were on board and even if they went through with the contract and the goat changed hands, and then they changed their minds, all right, that’s a different matter. No, all of the parties to this contract except the Fair which was going to be reimbursed for their share of it no matter what needed this goat dead because they needed to teach this 9-year-old, a lesson. Yeah.

Long filed a federal lawsuit in September 2022 against all three officers, alleging violations of the 4th and 14th Amendments and seeking damages while Long and her daughter admittedly sought to terminate a contract which, again a 9-year-old is allowed to disaffirm a contract.

It’s hard to imagine a worse state response to any stage of the process if both Long and Dahle agreed to terminate the contract and Long agreed to reimburse the Fair for its share of the purchase, then who was harmed?

And that’s the whole point of all this. This was a civil matter. A contract dispute. And the parties to the contract were in agreement. It was just the fair and the livestock manager, MacFarlane who didn’t like the fact that they didn’t want to follow through on the contract. The parties were like, “OK, it’s fine.” And they were going to get their 7% no matter what. Nope, that goat needed to be killed. We needed to kill a kid’s pet to prove a point. Let me tell you something, you want to talk about using the power of the State and the power of Government in an illegal way, in an improper way, to prove a point that’s in violation of the law, this is a case for it. Look, don’t the police have better things to do than drive more than 500 miles to take a kid’s pet so that it can be slaughtered?

See why I’m worked up? But this is civil versus criminal. Why are the police involved in this civil matter? The proper thing would have been if one of the aggrieved parties decided to file a lawsuit. That’s a civil case and what would they have gotten damages or money? Now one of the parties could have insisted on “specific performance.”  Specific performance is you have to follow through exactly per the contract. It’s really for very unique items and circumstances to have specific performance. If an artist takes a commission to paint a very specific painting and they have a very specific style, then they just decide that while they got the money they no longer feel like it. All right, maybe they can do it. If it’s a very unique antique, one-of-a-kind piece of furniture and someone spent a lot of money to acquire it and the sale went through. But now they want to cancel. I got the money, but I don’t want to give them the furniture anymore. That’s a potential specific performance. But a goat is just livestock to the buyer for BBQ. There’s nothing unique about this goat to the buyer. It is very unique to the 9-year-old girl EL. She wanted to save her pet. So specific performance is not something that’s a remedy in this case. They could have found any goat of the same weight and the meat would have been exactly the same. So this really was the State using its authority and pushing people around using the police to enforce a contract that nobody wanted to be a part of anymore.

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