Hearing Officer: Seizure of Burnell Horses Warranted The mare Jill Burnell identified as "Pokey" to animal services at seizure.

Hearing Officer: Seizure of Burnell Horses Warranted

Updated January 17, 2013 

An independent hearing officer has ruled Marin Humane Society Animal Services in California was justified in the seizure of two horses from Gray Fox Farm in December – a mare and stallion. An additional two horses were seized this month.

The post-seizure hearing is separate from the court proceeding where Jill Burnell’s request to have the horses returned was denied. The Hearing Officer heard three-hours of extensive testimony on January 8 from Bruce Wagman, who represents Marin Humane Society and Burnell’s lawyer, Maggie Weems.

Hearing Officer Albert Burnham ruled on January 14 that Marin Humane Society and its officers acted in the best interest of the horses and the public by stopping the ongoing suffering of the animals. The ruling also reportedly stated there was a lack of care for the horses who were taken, the horses still remaining, and that the Burnells are not in a position to properly care for the horses.

Burnell states in court documents the seized mare is “Pokey” – shown in much better body condition at an earlier unknown date (right.) She has been identified as Devil’s Sis, a 2001 thoroughbred broodmare.

Wagman says the horse had a Henneke Body Condition Score of 2 out of 9. “The emaciation of the seized mare was a terrible display of chronic neglect; I shudder to think how that horse suffered while she was deteriorating to the condition she was in at the time of seizure.”

Romantic Star, the injured Hanoverian stallion, continues to recover from injuries to his head. “…even a week later his open wounds and painful condition were plain evidence of great trauma,” says Wagman.


On January 4, animal services seized another two mares reportedly known as “Nutsie” and “Blackie” from the property. Both were found to be nearly emaciated and are receiving rehabilitative care at UC Davis Large Animal Clinic, according to officials.

Court records state that veterinarian Cheryl Ellis, DVM submitted a declaration on behalf of Burnell regarding her horses’ care.

A post-seizure hearing has not been scheduled for the additional two horses seized. Animal services says it continues to monitor the situation on the Burnell property.


View Vet Declaration 

View Farrier Declaration