Prosecutors Planning to Appeal Seized Horse Reimbursement Ruling

An attorney with the Jackson County, Mich., prosecutor's office said Monday he will appeal a Circuit Court ruling that horses at the center of a controversial animal cruelty case were improperly seized, and that their former owner be reimbursed for their value.

"We're going to appeal (Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Wilson's) decision," Chief Appellate Attorney Jerrold Schrotenboer said. "We're also going to appeal the decision to toss the felony charges."

The attorney for horse owner Jim Henderson, Jr. was unavailable for comment.

In March 2007, Henderson and Matt Mercier were each charged with three counts of felony animal torture and one count of misdemeanor animal abuse after Jackson County Animal Control authorities seized a total of 69 horses owned by Henderson from a ranch operated by Mercier. Since their seizure, one horse was euthanized, three were adopted out, and the rest sold to defray the county's cost of their care.

On Friday, Wilson ruled that there were no reasonable grounds for Henderson to have been ordered to forfeit his horses. The ruling went on to direct the district court determine the horses' value in order to pay Henderson. For more on this see "Michigan County to Reimburse Abuse Defendants for Seized Horses."

Wilson also found that the horses had not been abused or neglected while under Henderson's ownership, or under the care of co-defendant Mercier.

"That means my client did nothing wrong," said Ronald J. Fabian, Mercier's attorney.

Last Month, Circuit Court Judge Chad C. Schmucker ordered the felony charges against Henderson and Mercier dropped, as the District Court had erred in finding probable cause in the case.

Schrotenboer said the county will move forward with the single misdemeanor charges pending against the pair.

"We're going to court on the misdemeanor charges on Friday, but we're going to ask for a stay in that case so we can prepare our appeal," he said.

Kimberlee Luce, animal control director Jackson County at the time the seizure took place, was unavailable to comment on the case. Laura Steenrod, who served as spokesperson for the Leelanau Horse Rescue, a group which coordinated donations for the horses after they were forfeited to county care, was also unavailable. Steenrod and Leelanau Horse Rescue were not directly involved in the horses' care.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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