Do Barn Owners have an ethical obligation to care for abandoned horses?

Discussion in 'Horse Chat' started by mooselady, Jun 13, 2017.

  1. mooselady

    mooselady Senior Member

    Sep 9, 2012
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    I read this elsewhere, thought it would make a good discussion point.

    The particular context, someone was sharing pics of a horse that she has taken on, he is drafty who was abandoned last year, he looks in great condition but had really horrible, over grown split feet, they looked terrible, but have come back to looking great after one trim.

    So what are your views of the legal and or ethical responsibility of the barn owner in this situation.
    Alsosusieq2 likes this.
  2. lucky_pine

    lucky_pine Senior Member

    May 31, 2005
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    No. In my personal opinion, a barn owner has every right to give the owner of the animal x amount of days to uphold their end of the board contract, or horse becomes property of barn owner. Barn owner then has no obligation to care for that horse if they choose not to. If they choose not to, care should be given until horse is rehomed by any means fit.

    Edit: I don't feel my response really answered your question but Im going to sleep on it and reread it in the morning as it sits.
    Alsosusieq2 and mooselady like this.
  3. bellalou

    bellalou Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2014
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    I think it's incumbent on the barn owner to have a clear policy of what will happen if an animal is abandoned. A policy that is communicated to and signed off on by the boarder at the time the board contract is signed.

    At my barn, it is written into the contract that if board is not paid for 3 months, the barn will take possession of the horse. It's also written that if the owner fails to care for the horse for (I think) the same amount of time, or have someone else take care of it, the barn will take possession whether or not the board is paid.

    I am not sure if they have ever taken possession of a horse for non-care since I've been there but they have taken possession for non-payment of board. (they actually did with Sparky - unknown to me, my daughter did not pay her board. I ended up bailing him out.) When they do, they put the horse in their string if the horse is suitable, or sell it if not.

    What is not okay is just ignoring the problem.
  4. shaiarabs

    shaiarabs Senior Member

    Dec 20, 2006
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    in Australia a court of law will hold where the horse is kept responsible for the condition of the horse. You have to keep the horse/s well kept, prove your expenditure and reclaim it and possession of the horses in a court of law before you can dispose of the horses legally.

    By taking horses in and on your property, your taking a responsibility for their care and well being.
    D_BaldStockings likes this.
  5. slc

    slc Senior Member

    Feb 19, 2004
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    I was at a barn where a boarder had a very severely foundered old horse. The horse was in extraordinary pain and laid down most of the time, moaning, not even able to reach the water bucket.

    It was horrifying and infuriating. The situation went on for a very long time, years, I believe. The owner would come to the barn occasionally, chase the horse around the pasture with a whip and declare the horse was getting 'better every day'. It could barely walk down the barn aisle. But it was a very high strung horse and nervy enough to run around - or try to - whenever turned loose, so 'he really was fine'(according to the horse owner). In fact it could barely put its feet to the ground, it was in so much pain.

    But no one was to say anything about it because the owner was 'sensitive' and 'the barn owner will take care of it'.

    Well, that went on for a long time (a day is a long time in this case). I don't know how it was resolved. I don't know how it COULD be resolved and keep everyone happy. The owner of the horse clearly was not rational.

    In a perfect world, barn and horse owners would be perfectly on the same page about what was an acceptable level of care, and that standard of care would be acceptable to all in the community.

    • A barn (manager, owner, staff) needs to have a lawyer review any board contracts to be sure they are 'legal' (enforceable, valid). One cannot put just anything one wants, into a contract.
    • Board contracts are rarely 'tested' in every clause. Fortunately, most boarders aren't lawyers. Barns try to suss out if a boarder has the same idea about care as the barn does, and hope for the best.
    • There is a huge gap between the barn's idea of what is adequate, and the point at which the law would apply.
    • That gap is taken care of by bluff, negotiating and a lot of arguing.
    • A barn can't keep its image in the community and turn a blind eye to underfed or neglected (vet, shoeing) horses in the barn
    • A barn can't stay in business if it pays for everything that boarders don't do for their horses, and should.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2017
  6. Circle C

    Circle C Senior Member

    Mar 9, 2005
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    I'd have sold the horse a long time ago if the board wasn't paid within the time frame stated in the board contract.
    D_BaldStockings and Alsosusieq2 like this.
  7. manesntails

    manesntails Senior Member

    May 21, 2010
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    Horsemen have an ethical and moral obligation to care for every animal on their property.

    But not all barn owners are horsemen.
  8. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Senior Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 18, 2008
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    Ethically, yes, there is an inherent need to care for the animal appropriately during the time period from abandonment until the horse is re-homed or euthanized if it is not medically viable. As others have noted, every barn owner should have a policy around this that not only meets that ethic, but also complies with applicable law relative to re-homing/disposal. In some jurisdictions, re-homing/sale can happen relatively quickly; in others, legal requirements may delay that until certain steps/processes are completed. Horses are handled differently than "toasters" when it comes to property law.
  9. Kristal H

    Kristal H Senior Member

    Jan 19, 2016
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    My boarders sign as contract and in that contract, it states that if the board payment is delinquent for over 30 or more day that the horse will be sold at Auction. Selling the horse at Public Auction is done because it establishes the fair price of that horse, in that area on that particular day.

    I also have in my contract that the owner is to set up an account with my vet and farrier and that I can call the vet or farrier to arrange for care if the owner is not available or has failed to do so.

    I have a fiduciary responsibility to the animals kept on my property to makes sure that they receive feed, water and other required care.
  10. Artrageous

    Artrageous Senior Member

    Nov 5, 2007
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    I was at a barn once where this couple dumped off a very nice older quarter horse. She used to be a show horse but had arthritis. The owners came out for a few weeks then stopped coming out at all. At this time it was just us boarding at this barn, so we helped the barn owner take care of the horse. They gave the horse owners x amount of time, then got a lawyer involved, basically saying that they were seizing the horse for lack of paid board. Got no response, so they took over the mare. They didnt know much about horses at all, so we continued care and even took her out on trail rides. Eventually we left the property due to personal reasons, but by that time the BO had learned enough to care for her. Idk whatever happened to her, but she didnt deserve to be dumped. She was a fantastic mare, very sweet and smart.
    Alsosusieq2 likes this.

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