Hearing Officer: Seizure of Burnell Horses Warranted One of the horses seized from Jill Burnell's Gray Fox Farm.

Taking Responsibility for Horses

The stories plague the news – horses left to suffer without sustenance until someone swoops in and saves them. Some will be lucky, for others it will be too late.

So who is responsible? Horse breeders dedicated to improving horse welfare are joining forces with the Humane Society of the United States to form a Responsible Horse Breeders Council. The goal is to decrease the number of horses at risk for abuse, neglect, or slaughter. Council members will also work to discourage over-breeding and to promote responsible horse ownership and re-homing efforts.

“We have a responsibility to every horse born, and for some time now there has been a crisis of over-breeding that is having a terrible impact on the welfare of horses,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The HSUS. The crisis isn’t exclusive to hobby breeders or professionals, but seems to reach all.

A group of 22 horses was just found dead in West Virginia over the weekend. Officials confiscated 20 more due to neglect. The name of the owner has not been released.

Rebecca Roberts, a Pennsylvania attorney, and Morgan Sport Horse breeder is facing criminal charges.

Authorities seized a total of 29 horses from her since December 2012. The horses were reportedly in several feet of mud, without food, and adequate water. Dead horses were also found in various stages of decay on the property.

Warmblood breeder Jill Burnell of California has been shipping semen and selling foals on demand from Gray Fox Farm. Her blingy stallions and foals for the hunter/jumper market have been popular for years. Since late December 2012 officials have seized four of her horses because of alleged neglect.

“As a breeder of Arabian horses for 30 years, I believe that responsible breeding means not only breeding for the finest conformation and behavior, but also ensuring that our foals lead happy, productive lives,” said council member Melissa Forberg. “This commitment to the welfare of our foals must be lifelong and unwavering.”

The council encourages horse breeders to sign a pledge to be a responsible breeder. By doing so, they agree to take back any horse they have bred should the horse become homeless or at-risk of being abused or sent to slaughter. More than 800 breeders have already joined the responsible breeder’s list. Horse breeders can join the initiative by emailing.

You can also use this list to search for your horse’s breeder if you need help caring for your horse.