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Lake California Board says horse's eviction has nothing to do with autistic boy

By Tracey Leong, tleong@krcrtv.com
Published On: Sep 12 2013 02:02:16 AM CDT

The Lake California Board is responding to accusations that they kicked out a woman’s horse because she allowed an autistic boy to ride it; they say this is absolutely not the case.

“The fact that Daniel is not permitted under her contract is the issue, Daniel’s autism is not the issue,” said Emily Jackson, general counsel to the Lake California Board Association.

Jackson says Shannon Burke violated the rules of the equestrian center, and as a result was asked to relocate her horse.

“It didn’t have to do with the fact that the child had any special need or anything with that,” said Jackson.

However, last week Burke said it wasn’t clear how she violated her contract and she believed it was solely because she allowed an autistic child, Daniel to ride her mare Mia.

But Jackson said regardless of Daniel’s disorder, he was not authorized to use the horse under the contract, therefore violating the agreement. Jackson was not allowed to go into specific details about the violations because she has not been in contact with Burke.

According to Jackson’s records, Burke has not reached out to any of the board members. She doesn’t understand why Burke never made an effort to reach out to them for answers. However, Burke told KRCR News Channel 7 last week she tried to get an explanation from the board association but couldn’t get a response.

“Instead of going to any of the administrative staff and saying what’s going on, she elected to take a different course. She decided to go to the media and that puts the association in a very difficult position,” said Jackson.

Jackson also says the board understands and supports the benefit of using horse therapy for children with disabilities.

“It is unfortunate he has been put at the center of a dispute that I think he is the unfortunate party in because it was never about Daniel, it was about a combination of factors,” said Jackson, “there are facilities designed for that and there are people trained for that and Lake California is not that facility.”

Jackson says the termination of the contract has turned into an ugly battle and she hopes the board’s response clears up the situation

“People feel very angry and threatened, a lot of misinformation from people involved and not involved and it never needed to be this complicated,” said Jackson.

Burke has been asked by the board to relocate the horse by September 30th. Burke is scheduled to meet with the Lake California Board on September 17th to discuss her contract.