Seventeen horses owned by a Nebraska vet died. Neighbors want to know: Why is no one paying?

The case and lack of criminal charges against the still-practicing veterinarian outraged some residents. Now they’re seeking to recall the longtime county attorney.

Shelby kept her head low, hanging toward the back of the pen as potential buyers stopped to admire her.

“Oh she’s a pretty one. Which papers are hers?” an auction goer asked as she craned her neck to see.

Two other horses lined up at the front, blocking Shelby from the curious gazes and constant noise of the Palmyra auction house on March 12 like personal bodyguards. 

Shelby’s an impressive horse. She’s got a thick body, golden coat and a stark blond mane. A hall-of-fame pedigree and an attitude to match. 

But only a few months ago, her coat was dull and her hip bones protruded. Each vertebrae of her spine stuck out like a mountain range down her back. Her skin pulled tight over her ribs. 

She was utterly unrecognizable to her previous longtime owner save for the white streak down her nose.

Shelby’s one of a few dozen horses who narrowly survived severe malnourishment while in the care of a southeast Nebraska veterinarian. She was seized by the Gage County Sheriff and moved to a Crete animal rescue after an estimated 17 horses owned by the vet died.

As Shelby regained weight, the animal neglect case stalled in the district court, frustrating local investigators, infuriating animal welfare advocates and driving Gage County residents to begin circulating a petition to recall the longtime county attorney.

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In March, the 13-year-old horse sold for thousands – as did 36 other surviving horses – when she was auctioned off. 

Despite the deaths, the two clinics owned by the veterinarian remain open. The state renewed Jennafer Glaesemann’s veterinary license on April 1. 

And when Shelby and the 36 others were auctioned off, most of the proceeds didn’t go to the county, the animal rescue that nursed them back to health or to their continuing care.

Instead, the vet walked away with $113,000.

How did we get here?

Glaesemann bought Shelby in early 2022, a broodmare registered with the American Quarter Horse Association under the name “My Blonde Ex.” 

She seemed a key addition to Glaesemann’s breeding program, Blue Valley Quarter Horses.

Glaesemann, a licensed veterinarian in Nebraska, owns two clinics, Blue Valley Veterinary Clinic in Beatrice, where she operated her breeding business, and Pickrell Veterinary Clinic. 

Her family’s been in the area for generations. She grew up on her parents’ farm in Fairbury.

And she’s cared for southeast Nebraska animals since 2011, operating a vet practice that attracted the wrong kind of attention long before the animal neglect case. 

In 2015, Nebraska’s attorney general determined that Glaesemann did not meet the standard of care when performing surgery on two separate animals. One died. The other needed a second surgery from another vet. The state eventually placed Glaesemann on a year-long disciplinary probation ending in June 2019.

After that probation ended, Glaesemann began to quickly grow her collection of breeding horses. When she bought Shelby in 2022, she was already pregnant with a pedigreed foal.

Around the same time, Glaesemann stopped paying property taxes on two Gage County parcels. One of the properties was put up for a tax sale due to the delinquent taxes. 

The next summer, when Shelby’s foal Bling was a year old, the Gage County Sheriff’s Office started to get concerning calls.

People reported seeing skinny horses. Some of them were laying down, unmoving.

Between June and August, the department investigated 12 reports of animal neglect at Glaesemann’s veterinary clinics, police records show.

Around that time, Gage County was preparing the fairgrounds, which adjoin Glaesemann’s Beatrice clinic, for the county fair. Workers and locals complained of a foul smell and an “ungodly” amount of flies.

Police went to investigate, and found approximately 11 rotting horse carcasses dumped together in one of Glaesemann’s fields. With her cooperation, they hired a local excavation company to dig a large trench and bury the horses before the fair.

By mid-August, police estimated a total of 17 horses had died on the veterinarian’s property. The department executed another search warrant to seize the remaining animals.

Bling, Shelby’s foal, didn’t live to see the rescue. Records show she was never sold. She’s presumed to be one of the 17 dead. 

Immediately after the seizure, the American Quarter Horse Association revoked Glaesemann’s membership and her breeding business’s registration. She won’t be able to register horses that she may breed in the future, reducing their value.

“The reports of inhumane treatment, neglect, condition and deaths of horses involved in this case are deeply concerning to AQHA,” spokeswoman Kyla Jones said in a statement.

Glaesemann declined to be interviewed for this story.

Sheriff Millard Gustafson was also concerned by what he and his deputies found. In an interview, he said they occasionally saw bales of hay and buckets of water near the horses, but there wasn’t enough space or grass for grazing.

“There was not lush green pasture, I’ll tell ya that, it just wasn’t there,” Gustafson said.

Gage County Sheriff Millard Gustafson poses for a portrait at the Palmyra Livestock Market in Palmyra, Neb., March 13, 2024. Gustafson says that, following many complaints called in from the public, he and other investigators found sick and dead horses – and not enough space or grass for grazing. Photo by Dylan Widger for the Flatwater Free Press

In the complaint, C.J. Fell, a livestock investigator for the Nebraska Brand Committee, assessed the living horses and found most to be extremely emaciated, with bones prominently visible. Using the common vet rating system, he gave most of the horses a one or two – the lowest possible scores for a living horse.

Glaesemann told police that she had lost employees and assistance, court records show, and that she was “basically the sole provider of care for the horses.”

Police cited Glaesemann for 39 misdemeanor animal neglect charges and took the remaining horses, after seizing that number of horses from her clinics and other properties, Gustafson said.

“My priority was to get the animals away from Glaesemann’s possession, and we did,” Gage County Attorney Roger Harris said.

But some Gage County residents believe the seizure should have been only the first step toward justice.

Stalled out

When Shelby and her herd mates were seized, they were supposed to be cared for at their temporary home, Epona Horse Rescue in Crete, for around 30 days.

Ideally, livestock seizures operate on a tight timeline, said David Rosengard of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Nebraska law says the dispersal hearing should be held “as soon as practicable” to place animals in permanent homes immediately. 

The Gage County Sheriff’s Office seized Glaesemann’s living horses on Aug. 17, and the hearing was scheduled on Sept. 5.

From that point, the timeline went off the rails.

Glaesemann filed a motion that delayed the hearing for a month.

Phoenix is pictured waiting in the stallion pen before the auction. Rescue volunteers thought he might die when he arrived in August because he was so weak. Photo by Dylan Widger for the Flatwater Free Press

Then, the county attorney’s office submitted a motion usually used in criminal cases to require the defense to share evidence before a trial. But no criminal charges had been filed against Glaesemann.

District Court Judge Rick Schreiner commented on the unusual request in a handwritten note at the bottom of the order: “The court has some question of the applicability of the rules of criminal procedure in a civil matter …”

For the next six months, the hearing would continue to be delayed by repeated motions.

In the meantime, the seized horses sat in limbo at Epona.

“It should’ve never took that long. But that’s not in my neck of the woods,” said Gustafson, Gage County’s sheriff. “That’s the county attorney, he’s the one that makes those decisions, about how they’re gonna do it and let it drag on. So that’s on him and what he wants to do with it.”

Why did they die?

What the county attorney ultimately decided to do was not press any criminal charges against Glaesemann. 

In an extensive interview with the Flatwater Free Press, Harris said he decided not to press charges in part because some horses tested positive for equine parvovirus, so animal abuse could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt. 

Of the 39 living horses, five tested positive for equine parvovirus antibodies, said Lin Guyton, owner of the rescue, meaning they were infected at some point. Antibodies can stay detectable in a horse’s blood for weeks to months.

Because equine parvovirus was recently discovered in 2018, experts are still researching the disease, and sometimes have conflicting opinions, Harris said. The county attorney’s office consulted with veterinary schools, including Cornell University and Kansas State University, and local animal husbandry experts to learn about the virus.

But parvovirus is fairly common, said Mason Jager, a veterinary pathologist who researches the virus at Cornell University. 

Around one in seven horses in the U.S. has the virus at any given time, Jager said. The vast majority are asymptomatic or mildly ill for a few days.  

Very rarely, a horse can develop a fatal infection, which causes a rapid death from liver failure. 

Weight loss is not considered a symptom of equine parvovirus, Jager said, because the disease is short-term.

The Gage County horses were all underweight, investigation records show, including horses that never tested positive for parvovirus.

“When they first showed up, there was no personality to any of them,” said Ann Murphy, one of the rescue’s volunteers. “They were just too weak and tired.”

Epona Horse Rescue volunteer Tanya Martin-Dick leads Phoenix out of the barn after the auction. At one point, rescue volunteers thought he wouldn’t survive because he was so thin and weak. Photo by Dylan Widger for the Flatwater Free Press

After they were taken to the rescue, no more horses died, Guyton said. Their conditions improved quickly with access to food, water, salt and minerals. 

“She hasn’t lost one horse while they’ve been in her care, not one. And they’ve thrived and they’ve grown,” Murphy said. “It’s just amazing to watch them transform once they get enough food and they’re not fighting for it anymore.”

Two of the horses that died were necropsied at a University of Nebraska-Lincoln lab. The veterinarian who reviewed the results determined that they died of “prolonged poor nutrition” from neglect, court documents said.

If parvovirus had been present in those horses, Jager said, it would’ve been obvious in their liver tissues.

Harris said that those same two necropsies showed liver failure, which led him to believe parvovirus could have killed them. Malnutrition can also damage the liver.

The hearings were delayed for months, Harris said, because he was struggling to find experts willing to testify on the virus.

Harris didn’t file charges because he felt there could be doubt that the vet abused the horses, he said. He didn’t want to move on the civil case until he reached that decision.

“They want my office to criminally prosecute somebody when it wasn’t justified by the facts. I’m not gonna do it, never have and never will,” Harris told the Flatwater Free Press.

A community strained

Guyton’s rescue herd nearly doubled in size with the addition of the Gage County horses. It was a strain on her resources, she said, forcing her to rely heavily on volunteers and donations from the community.

As spring drew near, the donation money – some $75,000 raised – ran dry.

The situation reached a fever-pitch at the end of February. Guyton began billing the county directly for the horses’ care, $7,728 in January and another $16,095 the next month.

Shortly after she sent the county the first bill that wasn’t covered by donations, the county attorney scheduled an auction for March 2. 

Guyton had attempted to buy the horses outright, offering the county attorney’s office up to $30,000 plus waiving February’s bill.

Epona Horse Rescue owner Lin Guyton takes down the registration papers from Shelby’s pen after the auction. She bought Shelby for $5,500 at the auction. Photo by Dylan Widger for the Flatwater Free Press

Harris never responded.

“My situation is if we’re forced to sell some animals like that, we’re going to go to a public auction,” Harris said. “I don’t wanna hear people complaining they didn’t get a chance … public auction, everyone’s gonna have a chance at it.”

Just as the horses were to be transported to the sale barn, an eleventh hour stay came through. Harris’ office had never gotten a signed court order – the auction was off.

Harris declined to explain why the first auction was canceled, but he said “ulterior motives” were at play.

Over the next two weeks, Harris reached a deal with Glaesemann. The county would auction the horses, for real this time, on March 12, and she would turn over their registration papers.

As part of that deal, Glaesemann is not allowed to own horses in Gage County for two years. In exchange, Harris will not press criminal charges related to the estimated 17 horses that died or the 39 horses seized.

“These people are not happy,” said Gustafson, the county sheriff. “There’s protesters up front, at the courthouse yesterday, and I’m slammed with calls all the time.”

Residents of Gage County have expressed their frustration with the lack of criminal charges across social media, in-person protests and an email campaign. People have made personal accusations against Harris on Facebook and over the phone, he said, accusing him of hating animals and having connections to Glaesemann.

Harris worked on a ranch in the Sandhills for a long time, he said, and he spent more time in the saddle than he did walking.

He said he’d never met Glaesemann before the case, and had never used her veterinary services.

“I don’t engage in this crap,” Harris said. “I don’t care whose names are on the reports as far as accused of crimes, I’ll pursue it no matter who it is.”

Kerri Barnard Jones, a longtime Gage County resident and horse owner, filed a petition to recall Harris from his position as county attorney in the weeks following the auction. 

Two young stallions waited in a pen before the auction. Lin Guyton, owner of Epona Horse Rescue, bought them both for $4,500 each and later gelded them to ensure they wouldn’t be used for breeding in the future. Photo by Dylan Widger for the Flatwater Free Press

Two years ago, Jones called in a report to Gage County police after she saw “super malnourished” horses on Glaesemann’s property near the Kansas border, she said.

For Jones, Harris’ refusal to file criminal charges against Glaesemann was the final straw. 

“He’s made Gage County the laughingstock of Nebraska,” Jones said. “It’s just embarrassing.”

The petition is circulating now. Jones will have to gather signatures from around 2,300 registered Gage County voters over the coming weeks.

“I feel like, just with the response … there’s a lot of upset people with (Harris) for many reasons,” Jones said. 

Jim Luers, a former prosecutor for neighboring Lancaster County, said that Harris didn’t return any of his calls to discuss how he was handling the case. 

Luers filed an official complaint with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services concerning Glaesemann’s veterinary license and the horses. Other community members say they’ve also filed complaints, citing both the horses and conditions at her clinic.

DHHS spokesman Allan Urlis said the department “isn’t allowed to provide any information surrounding a complaint or ongoing investigation.”

That department renewed Glaesemann’s license on April 1. Glaesemann is still a practicing veterinarian, and both her clinics have remained open throughout the case.

“I’m angry about the fact that there are no charges being filed against this woman,” Murphy said. “I mean, she’s a veterinarian. I think she should be held to a higher standard.”

An auction, at last

On March 12, Tim Hanson, a sergeant with the Gage County Sheriff’s Office, leaned against the bleachers at the Palmyra Livestock Market, watching as people packed the stands for the auction of Shelby and the 36 other horses.  

Hanson filed the search warrant in August that led the horses to be seized. He met Shelby and the other, similarly skeletal horses as he investigated felony livestock neglect.

On auction day, Hanson declined to talk about that investigation, deferring questions to Sheriff Gustafson. “They look much better now,” he said when the horses were led toward the auction. “It’s amazing what food and water and care will do for them.”

Tanya Martin-Dick (center) bids on a stallion named Phoenix. She built a relationship with him while volunteering at Epona Horse Rescue during his recovery from malnutrition. Photo by Dylan Widger for the Flatwater Free Press

The stands filled with people: Prospective buyers, spectators, TV reporters and a contingent of green-shirted Epona rescue volunteers, determined to help the rescue buy as many of the horses as possible and allow them to continue recovering there.  

Bidding proved fierce. 

“These horses are going for ridiculous prices,” Guyton muttered to a rescue volunteer, dismayed because they were worth more after six months of rehabilitation at her rescue.

Most of the horses sold for $4,500 or more. Three went for $13,000 each. At a previous Palmyra Livestock Market sale, horses sold for between $475 and $3,900.

By auction’s end, Guyton and her volunteers had bought about 19 of the Gage County horses, including Shelby. She estimated they spent more than $100,000. 

In total, auction-goers spent around $185,000 on the horses.

Nebraska law lays out where proceeds from the auction go, said the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Rosengard. Those proceeds cover sale expenses, any unpaid costs of care and payments, and then go to anyone who has a lien on the animals.

After that, the leftover money goes to the animals’ owner.

That’s how Glaesemann received $113,128.75 after the unpaid care bill – subsidized until January by local donations – and her unpaid property taxes and other debts and collections were deducted. 

Epona Horse Rescue will not be reimbursed for costs covered by donations. Glaesemann actually made far more because the donated funds used for care weren’t deducted from her proceeds. 

Gage County should’ve billed Glaesemann for every month of care, whether or not they were covered by donations, Guyton said. She didn’t know when they were collecting donations that it would end up this way.

“People are pissed off on a whole new level,” Guyton said.

In an interview, Harris pushed back against donors who are now angry about the payout Glaesemann received. It’s due process for civil forfeiture, he said. Donors should have considered where the money was going to go.

Shelby stands in the pen with two other horses as spectators view the horse auction at the Palmyra Livestock Market. All three horses were purchased by Epona for $5,500 each. Photo by Dylan Widger for the Flatwater Free Press

“People that donated, donated to take care of the horses. The county had them in their custody at that point,” Harris said. “Maybe those people should think about what they’re doing.”

But those donations were both being solicited by both Epona and the Gage County Sheriff’s Office. And the costs of care spiraled as Harris waited months to resolve the case. 

“You take somebody’s property in this country, there’s an accounting that has to happen,” Harris said. “You got some people that don’t believe that with this case. I scratch my head on that … I didn’t realize Gage County had crossed over into China or something.”

Most of the surviving horses at the center of this case will now be adopted out to new homes through the horse rescue. That includes Shelby. She’s doing well now, and Guyton is looking for a trustworthy and loving permanent home for her, she said.

Two of the horses that the rescue didn’t manage to buy, a heavily pregnant mare and young stallion, are now living at a farm in Fairbury, visible from the road.

Kerri Barnard Jones, who is leading the push to recall Harris, drove by to see them after the auction. She knows the owner of the property: Glaesemann’s mother. 

Glaesemann is prohibited from owning horses in Gage County for two years. But her parents’ property is in Jefferson County.

“There’s a lot of people in this part of the country that are not going to let this go. Because this is horrific,” Guyton said. “Somebody has to care. There has got to be some justice for these horses.”

By Destiny Herbers

Destiny is a Roy W. Howard fellow through the Scripps Howard Foundation. She earned her master’s degree in journalism at the University of Maryland. While at UMD, she covered NASA and Congress for Capital News Service, reporting on everything from cheese served at state dinners to future missions to Mars. She worked on the Howard Center’s award-winning project, “Mega Billons,” an investigation of state lotteries, and was part of an ongoing Associated Press investigation into law enforcement practices. When she isn’t reporting, Destiny loves swing dancing and thrift shopping.


Disgusting to say the least. And Roger Harris is the most incompetent idiot allowed to practice law in this county/state. We will recall him. What a colossal embarrassment he has been for our county.

Where can I sign the recall petition?

Fletchers decorating in Beatrice or contact Kerri Jones. They have people going around collecting signatures

I’m digusted that that woman received money after what she put those horses through. The fact that her offices are both still open & she’s practicing still unbelievable. How could anyone not charge her with neglect shows that the county attorney is not fit to practice law. I will be looking to sign the petition.

😲 Seems like the animal abuser made out pretty good! Mr. Harris will hopefully get recalled. Incompetent is a compliment. Glaesemann got her vet license back! This whole scenario is soooo messed up. Just unbelievable. You think the vet could & would care for her horses. Unfortunately she too is incompetent. The animals paid dearly for her incompetence. Just unreal on how Glaesemann made out. Not even close to being held accountable for her negligence! Fuming mad in Papillion

Nebraska has a horrible reputation for animal abuse. Between the state’s livestock owners and Nebraska’s Department of Agriculture, there’s a lot of money and political power preventing any kind of follow-up on reports of animal abuse. Some say it’s because corporations, ranchers, and farmers don’t want any kind of animal welfare regulation and the accompanying expense impacting their profits. It would be interesting to follow up on this story with a report on the POV of large livestock owners, including our Governor, on the continued failure in our state to stop animal abuse. I’d also like to hear why the Governor decided to award $$ to Nebraska students attending vet schools if they plan to have a large animal practice after graduation. Seems to me that he’d personally benefit rather well from that program.

This makes me sick to my stomach. As a former horse exhibitor in breed, open and 4-H, I can’t believe this vet has not lost her license or put in jail. Please contact me if there are any protests or ways to help dethrone the gage county attorney. What a complete moron on so many levels! Shame on the licensing board and not permanently revoking her DVM license.

Thank you for this article. And thank God for Lin and her Epona volunteers. Always wondered who was protecting Glaesemann (so vile) and astonished to learn it is county attorney Roger Harris. Please recall this abomination of a public servant.

Thanks for the research and getting more of the facts behind the story!
What a black eye for Nebraska. It makes me sick to my stomach. I hope Gage County residents manage to recall the incompetent nincompoop of an attorney, and curses be on whoever takes their animals to one of Glaesseman’s clinics for care.

Why are people still using her clinics? Are they the only ones in a reasonable radius for some customers? Are they just ignorant of her history? She should be charged, there is more to this story than what has been uncovered so far.

excellent article – first the “beatrice 6”. now the gage county 17. really people. has nothing been learned. these are EXPENSIVE lessons and the innocents suffer. having done child protection for 15 years i can tell you the value of a good county attorney. if this is what happens with animals i can’t imagine what child protection workers go through in gage county…….and i like animals better than people – this would be why.



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