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Boarding barn question: abandoned horses

From: Heather

Hi Jessica,

Yet another question for the people that board my filles. By the way, they are not new to horses, but are new to the care of a large herd of horses, some of which are owned by other people. I bought my fillies from the lady I will be describing and though I am not sure I want to be in the middle of it, they both put me there and I am too dependent on the both of them to risk telling them to grow up and work out their own problems. They are having a problem with one of the other boarders not paying their board. She has five horses there, soon to be eight (three foals on the way), and hasn't paid board or been out to see her horses at all for three months. Of course they are still feeding and caring for the horses, since you can't take it out on them, but they can't afford to keep it up. What are their options? Any and all advice appreciated!! Thanks!

Hi Heather! The owners of the stable do have a problem, and the first thing they should do is look at their boarding contracts and check what terms they wrote into them.

Then they should find out what their state laws are. There are actually laws in almost every state that cover exactly this sort of situation, but a lot of barn owners don't realize this.

They need to find out the specifics of their state's law. Most laws allow the stable owner to take possession of the horses when board has remained unpaid for a certain amount of time (depends on the state) and when they stable owner can prove that he or she has made certain specific efforts (sometimes a registered letter, but again, this depends on the state) to contact the horses' owner and get payment. In some states, the law goes into effect after the horse has been left at the barn with board unpaid for nine months -- in other states, the period is a lot shorter.

Your stable owners need to do some legal research to find out what the state laws are, and they will probably need some legal advice to help them proceed from there. A lawyer willl be able to advise them whether the best procedure for them would be to take possession of the horses or to bring a collection lawsuit against the horses' owner.

There are specialist lawyers who deal with equine law, and that's the kind of lawyer they will need.

- Jessica

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