Abandoned Horses: Know the Law

It’s every equine boarding facility’s nightmare: a boarder disappears, leaving their horse behind in your care…along with mounting bills. What are your legal rights and responsibilities to the owner and the animal if you live in Los Angeles? A horse lawyer can help you understand what your options are and figure out the best course of action.

If you bringing it into your facility, you are responsible for its care under the law, including shelter, proper nutrition and veterinary attention, and humane treatment at all times. If you fail in these obligations, you could be liable for civil damages. Of course, there could be a significant financial investment involved in caring for an animal whose owner has stopped paying what he owes you. There are several ways to recoup some or all of your losses in this situation.

The simplest solution is a written statement from the animal’s owner that releases the horse to your facility and waives their ownership rights. This enables you to either find the horse a new owner, or to sell it. If for some reason you are unable to get such a written statement from the owner, your next legal step can be to enforce your livestock lien. You would then continue to be responsible for the animal and its maintenance until a court order could be obtained granting you possession of the horse and permission to sell it. This option is not a good choice for animals that are not of much value, since your expenses in caring for such a horse under these circumstances would be likely to exceed any profit you could make from selling it.

In the event that a horse of low monetary value is left with you by a deadbeat owner, you may decide to relinquish lien rights, and officially designate the horse as abandoned.. You must post the correct state code in a highly visible place on your facility so that each border can be advised of its contents. The code indicates that an animal shall be deemed abandoned if it is not picked up by its owner within 14 days after the animal was due to be retrieved. The best practice in this situation is to send a certified letter to the horse’s owner indicating that the animal must be removed from your property by a specified date. A good Los Angeles horse lawyer can advise you regarding the rest of your legal responsibilities through the process of total compliance with Californian’s equine abandonment law.

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