The first load of horses leave a farm in Mercer County with the Department of Agriculture following

The first load of horses leave a farm in Mercer County with the Department of Agriculture following

Rick Samuels

State, Borells Clash Over Horses' Ownership

Charles and Maria Borell claim ownership, or interests, in the 43 horses.

State and local officials have filed a lawsuit seeking ruling that the 43 horses determined to be abandoned in June at a Mercer County farm are now owned by Mercer County Fiscal Court, not Charles and Maria Borell.

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

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 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 9 a.m., Oct. 12.

According to the state filing, the Borells claim ownership or ownership interests in all 43 horses currently in temporary care of individuals and entities acting as agents for the fiscal court. 

Besides the Borells, four other parties have come forward to claim ownership in five of the horses after the Office of the State Veterinarian posted photos and information on the horses in its database on stray and abandoned horses. Those parties are permitted to intervene in the suit to claim ownership or interest in the horses.

Other owners who have claimed ownership or ownership interests include Gersen Racing (Princess Megan, Valerio, and an unnamed 3-year-old Offlee Wild male out of Princess Megan.) Jack "Trey" Willoughby III and Randy Polley claim ownership interests in Sheza Fun Sponge. Joshua Mentzer claims an ownership interest in an unnamed 4-year-old filly out of Bald N Blue, by Colonel John.

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.

The state agriculture and Mercer County Fiscal Court lawsuit said that despite the ruling of abandonment, the Borells continue to claim ownership or interests in the horses.

An attorney for Charles "Chuck" Borell on Aug. 1 entered a plea of not guilty on his client's behalf to 43 charges of second-degree animal cruelty in connection with the abandonment of horses at a farm in Central Kentucky. A pre-trial hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 29 in Mercer County District Court.