Mom sued fair that tracked down daughter's goat for slaughter. Now state agency is suing mom

The legal battle over a 9-year-old's pet goat that was slaughtered after her family backed out of the Shasta District Fair continued this week after the California Department of Food and Agriculture counter-sued the girl's mother, blaming her for the ordeal and saying she should pay the defense's legal fees.

In a Tuesday countersuit filed in federal court in Sacramento, state Attorney Gen. Rob Bonta's office, which is representing the agriculture department, asked that the lawsuit over the goat named Cedar be dismissed, saying that the girl's mother, Jessica Long, signed a contract when she entered the animal in the livestock auction. The counterclaim also said that Long should pay for the legal fees of the defense and that the federal court doesn't have jurisdiction over the incident.

Under the contract Long signed, according to the court filing, she agreed that she wouldn't hold the Shasta fair responsible for any injury or damage.

“Jessica Long has a duty to defend defendants/counter-claimants as officers, agents, and/or employees of the Shasta County District Fair under the terms of the contract,” according to the state attorney general's filing.

The ordeal began when Long bought the goat for her daughter to enter into the 4-H program, which teaches children how to raise farm animals that are eventually entered into an auction to be sold and slaughtered.

When it came time for Cedar to be auctioned off, however, Long's daughter couldn't go through with it and "sobbed in her pen with her goat," Long wrote to the Shasta County fair's manager on June 17.

Long begged the fair to let her daughter keep Cedar, despite the goat having already been sold at auction for $902 to state Sen. Brian Dahle (R-Bieber). She also offered to repay the fair district and the bidder whatever costs had been incurred.

But fair officials refused, threatened to call police and rebuffed Long’s attempt to find another outcome for Cedar.

“Making an exception for you will only teach [our] youth that they do not have to abide by the rules,” Shasta District Fair Chief Executive Melanie Silva wrote to Long in an email. “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.”

Long took Cedar to a farm in Sonoma County because she and her family live in a residential area in Shasta County and are unable to keep farm animals there. Fair officials then contacted the Shasta County Sheriff's Office.

Armed with a search warrant, authorities took possession of the animal and returned it for slaughter.

Long then filed a federal lawsuit last year against the county and Shasta District Fair officials, saying that they violated her daughter's 4th and 14th Amendment rights and committed an "egregious waste of police resources" when detectives from the Shasta County Sheriff's Office drove more than 500 miles across Northern California to try to find the goat.

Times staff writer Salvador Hernandez contributed to this report.

Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.