FRANKFORT — A Mercer Circuit Court judge ruled Thursday that Charles Borell and his daughter, Maria, no longer own 42 horses found abandoned on a Mercer County farm in June.
Judge Darren W. Peckler ruled in a lawsuit brought by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) and the Mercer County Fiscal Court in September asking the circuit court to rule that the Fiscal Court owns the horses and may sell, donate, or otherwise transfer ownership of the horses.
“We are pleased that this ruling resolves the question of ownership of these horses,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “I want to commend our state veterinarian’s office team, Mercer County elected officials, and members of the thoroughbred community who stepped up to provide urgently needed care.”
Judge Peckler’s ruling notes that Charles Borell relinquished his ownership claims in the horses in connection with an Alford plea of guilty to nine counts of second-degree animal cruelty on Sept. 29 in Mercer District Court. The ruling says Maria Borell has not asserted a claim to the horses.
Six of the horses will be returned to their previous owners, and the remaining 36 horses will be relocated to permanent homes. One of the horses was euthanized in early October due to a neurological ailment.
The suit also asked the court to order the Borells to pay costs incurred by Fiscal Court and numerous businesses and individuals who have contributed to the upkeep of the horses since they were declared to be abandoned, as well as interest, attorneys’ fees, and other costs of the litigation. Today’s ruling does not resolve those claims.
According to the suit, on June 9, Deputy State Veterinarian Bradley Keough visited the farm where the horses were located and found them to be without adequate food and water and with no caretakers present. Dr. Keough evaluated the horses’ conditions, found little or no fresh hay on the premises, and declared that the owner(s) had abandoned them based on his observations, the suit says. At that point, the suit claims, Charles Borell and his daughter, Maria, lost their rights to the horses, and Mercer County Fiscal Court became the “taker-up” of the horses.
Mercer County Sheriff Ernie Kelty was notified and promptly provided bales of hay and fresh water to the horses, the suit says.
“Our paramount concern has been to ensure these horses will end up in permanent homes where they will receive the care they need,” said Rusty Ford, equine programs manager for the Office of the State Veterinarian. “I especially want to thank Thoroughbred Charities of America Inc. and the Jockey Club for their assistance and financial support.”
The KDA has calculated that more than $20,000 has been spent on temporary care for the horses. The suit claims that Thoroughbred Charities of America has spent more than $13,000, and Sallee Horse Transport, Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, Park Equine Hospital, and Patterson Veterinary Supply also have contributed to their care.