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May 27, 2014

Updated: Jill Burnell Pleads Guilty To Animal Cruelty

Jill Burnell, owner of Gray Fox Farm in Marin County, Calif., was sentenced May 9 to four years of supervised probation after pleading guilty to one charge of animal cruelty, as was reported by Rate My Horse Pro, who obtained the court documents from the case.

Burnell will have to complete six credit hours of education at the Santa Rose Junior College Equine Sciences Department, and she also must follow specific conditions for care of horses—including maintaining at least 10 bales of hay on her property at all times, offering appropriate shelter, and keeping her property free of excess debris. A veterinarian from the Marin Humane Society will visit the property once a month.

As was part of the plea agreement put forth by Burnell’s attorney, Margaret Weems, the 13 additional charges were dropped, as were all charges against Burnell’s husband, Alex Burnell. The one remaining charge pertained to an Oldenburg mare, Radieschen or “Radish,” and court documents state Jill “failed to provide the animal with a proper shelter or protection from the weather.”

The Marin Humane Society is still caring for three horses—including stallion Romantic Star, Pookie and Nutsie—who were seized from Gray Fox Farm in December 2012 and January 2013. A fourth, Blackie, was returned to her owner.

"The plan is to get the horses adopted out to good homes," said animal law attorney Bruce Wagman, a spokesman for the Marin Humane Society. "[The Burnells] are still fighting that. There are still pending civil cases. It's our position that the horses can be adopted out, and it's theirs that they can't. Maybe at some point a judge has to figure that out.

"We're very happy [Jill] was convicted of animal cruelty," Wagman added. "As often happens in these cases, it’s the symbol of the fact that animal cruelty was committed on that property. That there was only count doesn’t mean she didn’t do everything she was charged with. It was done to expedite the judicial process." 

Weems did not respond to requests for comment.