Jill Burnell pleaded guilty to animal cruelty in connection to the Oldenburg mare Radieschen. Photo from unknown date.
Update May 20, 2014
A California Warmblood breeder is now a convicted animal abuser. Jill Burnell pleaded guilty to animal cruelty for failing to provide the Oldenburg mare Radieshen with proper shelter.
Eleven additional counts were dismissed against the Gray Fox Farm owner. The prosecution dismissed all charges against Burnell’s husband, Alex Burnell, as a part of the plea agreement.
The charges stem from an investigation that began in October 2012 after Burnell moved from Sonoma County to Marin County. The first seizure of Burnell’s horses occurred after a stallion fight ensued in late December. Burnell called a former friend saying she thought Aloha and Romantic Star were going to “kill each other.”
“Romantic Star was on the ground on his side, and his leg was twisted in the air… Aloha’s foot was putting pressure on the blanket in the area of Romantic Star’s neck which was causing him difficulty breathing. She feared that Aloha had seriously injured the leg, and that it could be broken.”
“Romantic Star was on his left side and his right eye was swollen shut. His face and body were covered with mud and blood. She also saw that he was incredibly thin compared to the last time that she had seen him when he was in Petaluma. She said it took about an hour and a half to get him up off of the ground. She felt that he was going to die. While this was going on, defendant Jill Burnell was rarely seen, until she appeared with some hay which she put in the muddy pen.”
Animal control arrived a day after the stallion fight and found Kristen Strain loading the Oldenburg mare Radieschen onto her trailer. She allegedly purchased the emaciated mare. Strain did not have a Bill of Sale, but court documents state she told officials she traded the horse for money Burnell owed her.
Strain’s veterinarian, Jamie Kerr, DVM confirmed the mare, which was reported in foal, was not pregnant. The mare’s Body Condition Score was a 2 on a scale of 1-9. He stated Radish’s condition was due to neglect. Strain and Dr. Kerr made the decision to euthanize the mare.
A total of four horses, including Romantic Star, were seized from Gray Fox Farm and remain under the care of animal services.
Burnell was sentenced to four-years supervised probation. Additionally, a veterinarian for the Marin County Humane Society will make monthly farm checks for the court. Farm improvements, including adding a one-sided windbreak to the existing pasture shelters and a “stallion paddock,” must be added. The agreement also stipulates that 10 bales of hay reserve must be maintained at all times. The debris littering the property was also addressed. It must be moved to the POD container, a shed, or fenced off from the horses. An unknown amount of restitution will also be paid by Burnell for damages, according to the court minutes.
Burnell will also continue her horse and stable management education by completing six credit hours at the Santa Rosa Junior College in the Equine Sciences Department. Burnell reports to probation on Friday, May 16, and a judge will supervise her six-month progress reports.
Burnell’s defense attorney, Maggie Weems, requested that neither side make any statements regarding the disposition of the case. The parties agreed.