UPDATE: Ag Dept., Fiscal Court file suit in abandoned horses case

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HARRODSBURG, Ky. (WTVQ)- State and local officials filed suit in Mercer Circuit Court on Tuesday disputing Charles and Maria Borell’s claims of ownership on 43 horses found abandoned on a Mercer County farm in June.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) and Mercer County Fiscal Court are asking the circuit court to rule that Fiscal Court owns the horses and may sell, donate, or otherwise transfer ownership of the horses. The suit also asks 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.

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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.

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.

The Office of the State Veterinarian posted photos and information pertaining to the horses on its Stray and Abandoned Horses Database at kyagr.com/statevet/strayhorse. Four other parties came forward to claim ownership in five of the horses, the suit says. Other parties may intervene in the suit to claim an interest in the horses.

The KDA and Mercer County Fiscal Court also filed a motion for a speedy hearing so that the costs of the temporary care of the horses may be brought to an end as soon as possible. A hearing on the suit is scheduled for Oct. 12 at 9 a.m.

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7/7/16 5:22 p.m.

Volunteers are making sure horses left at a Mercer County farm by some well-known names in the horse industry are on the road to recovery.

Angie Cheak is leading that group.

“There have been times I’ve been physically ill by what’s been done to these horses,” says Cheak.

Some of the horses suffer from skin and foot sores while many are malnourished, their ribs showing under what used to be a shiny coat. Volunteers are making sure they don’t stay that way for long.

“Then there’ve been incredible moments and don’t make me cry, incredible moments of great joy,” says Cheak. “This morning we saw a mare and a foal leave here who are going to the TRF facility at Blackburn.”

Still for some, the joy is yet to be felt. Johanna Hunt bred a fillie named “Norma”. She says she sold the horse to Maria Borell a couple years ago, but quickly lost touch with the trainer.

“We fear the worst at this point unfortunately but we really just want to know that our horse is okay,” says Hunt.

Chuck and Maria Borell each face 43 counts of second-degree animal cruelty in the case. According to state law, those are considered misdemeanor charges, something that’s not sitting well with those caring for the horses now.

The farm the horses were found on is leased by the Borell’s.