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Woman convicted of horse neglect who ran “kids camp” with daughter, arrested for probation violations

Sandra Brownell (left) and her daughter Jessica Brownell (right) pictured during their sentencing on January 6th, 2023, after pleading guilty to four counts of animal neglect, three of which were felony counts. 

Dallas, Ore. – An Oregon woman was recently arrested by authorities after a Polk County Judge issued a warrant after prosecutors alleged she concealed continued ownership of horses despite her ongoing bench probation.

According to court records obtained by Equestrian Media Group, prosecutors say Sandra J Brownell, 63, “failed to comply with the animal possession conditions of probation as directed.”

In January 2023, Brownell and her daughter, Jessica Brownell, were convicted as part of a plea deal with the Polk County District Attorney’s Office after both were jointly indicted by a grand jury on fourteen felony counts of animal neglect in connection with their operation of an unregistered business.

In the summer of 2022, a warrant was executed by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office while Brownell and her daughter had been operating a summer camp for young kids, resulting in the seizure of numerous horses and other animals.

Three of the eighteen horses were in such condition that they had to be euthanized by a veterinarian on-site during the seizure.

On April 17th, Polk County Judge Timothy Park issued a warrant for Brownell’s arrest. Brownell and her daughter had already been scheduled for another probation review hearing with Judge Park on May 24th.

Park has appeared to be diligently holding bench probation reviews for the Brownells every six months, a step often unseen in relatable cases in Oregon. The previous review, late last year, included court notes that the defendants were to finish community service and make regular payments towards restitution.

The Brownells were ordered to pay $25,580 in restitution for bills incurred by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. To date, $7,400 has been paid, including a single payment of $5,000 by Douglas Silbernagel on the Brownells’ behalf in January. About $18,000 remains unpaid.

The case and its new charges are being handled by Oregon DOJ Senior Assistant Attorney General Jacob Kamins.

“Fast forward to 2022, and the Brownell’s are running a business, an unlicensed business called Salt Creek Equestrian, which is designated in advertising materials as a horse day camp, promising parents quote ‘a unique day camp to fit your scheduled and enrich your child’s love of horses.’ ” Kamins said.

The Brownells declined to speak during their sentencing.

“I have to say, I’ve seen a number of these cases over the years– I practiced criminal law for almost 20 years– what has been described to me is one of the more egregious, at least the worse case that I’ve come across.”

Judge Park went on at the time to express his feelings in reviewing the case: “While I certainly understand [the Brownell’s attorney’s] point about how somebody can get in over their heads very easily, but what has been described to me I think goes way past the ‘in over the head’, and goes into more of a willful negligence.”

“[It] seems clear that you ladies would have known something was amiss, and these animals needed more than you could give… that’s the real tragedy,” said Judge Park.

A photo showing the condition of one of the horses that Sandra & Jessica Brownell have been indicted on charges of felony animal neglect for following the seizure of 9 horses on August 30th, 2022. 3 other horses had to be euthanized.

Founder of a local 501(c)(3) animal rescue, Joy Laudahl, who assisted authorities with the case, detailed her feelings during the previous proceedings.

“The fact that so many horses died before this seizure, all this abuse was done in front of kids at their day camp, and it was all lack of basic care makes me sick.” Laudahl said, “So many people saw the suffering and never said anything. People helped the Brownells continue to abuse animals by never saying anything. People need to always speak up for children and animals that have no voice.”

Equestrian Media Group spoke again recently with Laudahl, who said the situation reveals a concerning trend in the inability of the judicial system to get compliance and prevent reoffending in the majority of these animal neglect cases.

Laudahl’s statement seems to reflect upon this publication’s own findings through the vast reporting on equine neglect cases in recent years.

Brownell and her daughter are both scheduled to be back in Polk County Circuit Court on May 24th, at 1:30pm.

This is a developing story you can count on us to keep you updated on.

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