Hearing Officer: Seizure of Burnell Horses Warranted

Warmblood Breeder Convicted of Animal Abuse Sues Humane Society for $15 Million

A convicted animal abuser is suing a local humane society for $15 million. California Warmblood breeder Jill Burnell of Gray Fox Farm alleges her rights were violated.

The filing is the latest in an ongoing legal tussle between Burnell and the Marin Humane Society. The suit stems from a criminal case against Burnell after four horses were seized from her Gray Fox Farm. It happened after a stallion fight ensued in December 2012.

Attorney Maggie Weems filed the lawsuit on behalf of Burnell, and her husband, Alex Burnell, on December 26th in U. S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Almost a dozen defendants include the County of Marin, the humane society, several employees and connections of the animal services agency, and a sports horse breeder.

Romantic Star had a BCS of 3 when he arrived at UC Davis
Aloha and Romantic Star after a stallion fight ensued at Gray Fox Farm.

The complaint states the defendants acted to destroy Burnell’s breeding business while interfering with the Burnells’ rights by engaging in various activities including: seizing livestock from the Burnell property; impairing the health, breeding value and capacity of plaintiffs’ breeding livestock; making false and derogatory statements with reckless disregard for their truth; using the pretext of an animal abuse investigation to raise money; and testifying falsely in administrative, criminal and civil proceedings.

Weems also represented the Burnells in their criminal case. In May 2014, Jill Burnell pleaded guilty to animal cruelty for failing to provide an Oldenburg mare with proper shelter.

As a part of a plea deal, eleven additional counts were dismissed. The prosecution also dropped its case against Alex Burnell.

Jill Burnell is serving four years of supervised probation.


View Civil Complaint