The suit against the California agency was originally filed by Georgia horse breeder Ronda Stavisky. Within hours of Rate My Horse PRO reporting the story, Stavisky put out the following public statement:
“At this time, Rising Star Farm is retracting the contractual agreement to purchase the stallion known as Romantic Star. All previous affiliations with Jill Burnell/Grey Fox Farms [sic] and Robert Maggie Weems have been discontinued and official notification to the respected parties has been given. Any financial evaluations or statements made in any legal case involving these parties is in NO WAY indicative of the previous purchase agreement between Rising Star Farm and Grey Fox Farms [sic] for the purchase of Romantic Star. It is my sincere hope that this stallion is able to find refuge in a situation where he is given the good care he deserves.”
The amended filing states “Stavisky is the former owner of a horse, Romantic Star, a registered Hanoverian stallion purchased upon various terms and conditions for $100,000 on or about December 18, 2012.” Days after, a stallion fight erupted on Burnell’s property leaving Romantic Star injured. The next day he and a mare were seized by animal services. Early in January, two more horses were removed by officials.
A report from UC Davis states the Hanoverian presented with a swollen head, multiple lacerations, an eye swollen shut, and swollen front legs with a small puncture wound. The vet report notes the stallion’s “CBC revealed some inflammation and there were changes on the chemistry due to anorexia and muscle damage.”
The stallion is still in possession of MHS, which allegedly led the women to rescind their sales contract. According to the documents, “in partial consideration for such, Stavisky assigned her claims to Burnell.”
Stavisky had no comment for this story.
Burnell alleges the Humane Society’s conduct has caused harm to her personal reputation, as well as $100,000 in damages to her breeding business. She is seeking a jury trial.
Maggie Weems is the attorney representing Burnell. She had no comment when we contacted her.
Marin Humane Society attorney Bruce Wagman says, “the lawsuit is frivolous, as it suggests that the Marin Humane Society, while acting under its obligation to protect animals, and in the act of rescuing horses who were badly suffering, somehow stole these animals.”
While information is still slim regarding the four seized horses, Wagman says the 2001 thoroughbred broodmare Devil’s Sis (pictured) is not pregnant.
Burnell is advertising the mare’s in-utero foal by Romantic Star on her site for $8750.
Burnell’s former stallion Aloha is now reportedly owned by Pikturesque Farm, according to a release by the Canadian Sport Horse Association. Farm owner Sarah Wilson said, “there will be a public announcement made in the next few weeks.”
Aloha and Redwine are standing at Ashland Farm in Canada with Paul Morgan. It is unclear if Burnell still has an ownership stake in Redwine. Morgan would only say, “we were not getting them out of the US for her we were getting them into Canada for us.” He added that the horses are comfortable and happy in their new home.