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California Cops Went to Baffling Lengths To ‘Teach 9-Year-Old a Lesson’

A young girl, sitting on the floor, with her knees pulled up to hide her crying face.

In what world do cops have the power to drive 500 miles just to unnecessarily (and illegally) slaughter a baby goat after issuing a search warrant to abduct said goat, for the express purpose of teaching a 9-year-old girl a “lesson” about power and fairness? The world of northern California, apparently.

In Shasta County, a young girl, part of the local 4-H branch, took part in a program where she assumed ownership of a baby goat, whom she named Cedar. The program is meant to teach children what it’s like to participate in agriculture, and specifically, the process of rearing livestock to be sold to slaughter. But this girl grew very close to Cedar, and on the night before auction, she remained in the barn with him, sobbing.

Her mother, Jessica Long, attempted to back out of the auction, but this apparently wasn’t allowed. So, she instead took Cedar home that night, later writing a letter to the Shasta County fair manager asking if they could just let her daughter keep the goat—an inoffensive and completely sensible request, one that wouldn’t require much empathy at all to understand.

But human empathy must not be on the docket for the county’s cops, because the local Sheriff’s department sent detectives to hunt down this baby goat, take it from the family, and slaughter it. After considering the communication that went on within the police department, Vanessa Shakib—the attorney representing the family, who is now suing—determined the following: “It was never about money. County officials were clear that they wanted to teach this little girl a lesson.”

The fair’s chief executive, Melanie Silva, said more or less the same thing in her response to Long’s letter: “Making an exception for you will only teach [our] youth that they do not have to abide by the rules. Also, in this era of social media this has been a negative experience for the fairgrounds as this has been all over Facebook and Instagram.”

Well dang, Melanie, you could have fixed that negativity by just giving the goat back to the little girl. Instead, you killed it and traumatized a little girl over a non-issue.

Moreover, the legality of all this is called into question when considering that the contract regarding Cedar’s ownership was signed by a minor. In California, minors are given a much longer period of time to back out of and question a contract, so that technically gives the family grace for taking Cedar back following the auction. And even if the family were okay with Cedar being given to the County, it was legally the county’s responsibility to handle his care leading up to his death, including the slaughter. But they instead shipped him to a third party for slaughter, which almost feels gratuitously cruel considering the context of this entire case.

I cannot imagine how horrible this has been for the family. While yes, the process of raising and slaughtering livestock is a tough lesson for kids to learn, NO CHILD should have to learn it in such a cold, brutal manner as having their home raided by cops. Also, for god’s sakes, what’s the harm in keeping one single baby animal as a pet, even if it wasn’t “meant” to be a house pet? She’s a little girl! She may not even go into agriculture in the future! Cedar was a great name for that little baby goat, poor thing.

Hopefully, the lawsuit reaches an amiable conclusion for the family, and the county doesn’t get away with this. The last thing we need in this country is even more reinforcement for officials to employ such draconian, anti-human actions for such minor “problems.”

(featured image: SB Arts Media/Getty Images)

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Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).