We represent a handful of big-time boarding facilities in California, and the two facilities that are retirement-focused are both struggling with locating horse owners. Before I got into the equine legal business I had no idea that this problem occurred so regularly. I mean, it must be hard to abandon a horse, right? You can’t really leave them on the side of the road discreetly, and there isn’t an anonymous over-night drop-off that I know of, like many counties have for cats and dogs. But abandonment happens more than any of us realize, and unfortunately, the boarding facilities are left footing the bill.
Another common denominator that I see is that my clients wait for too long to do something about it. Often months (or years…) go by before they get around to telling me about it. And by then, it ends up costing them more in legal fees (and costs to care for the animals in the meantime) because I need to spend more time tracking these people down. In once case, I have even had to hire a private investigator, and we still can’t find the horse’s owner! At what point will we see her on America’s Most Wanted?
And so, I have a few suggestions for the horse men and women out there:
1) If you own a horse, retired or not, you’ve GOT to pay for its keep until the day it dies! Reputation is everything in this industry – people won’t forget, and news like this spread faster than wildfire.
2) If you are operating a boarding facility, and have a client that hasn’t paid you in 30 days, do something about it immediately upon realizing that they haven’t paid you.
a. Call them.
b. Write them a letter.
c. Talk to their affiliates.
d. Contact an equine attorney.
e. Make something happen! If you do not, and wait for months… you’ll be calling an attorney for help, potentially dealing with the Sheriff Dept., and may end up paying to keep the horse indefinitely (for better or worse!) - $$$$.
In short, don’t let time go by when something isn’t right, regardless of whether you are a horse owner or horse facility owner/operator. Time is always of the essence when it comes to live animals… and money.