Loaned money for emergency vet care - denied repayment
Hi everyone. I'm new to the forum and have a sticky and icky situation that I've fallen into. I was in the process of buying a mare, hadn't bought her yet, and was boarding her at a stable. The day before I paid for her, I got a phone call saying my mare escaped her stall, teased a stallion, the stallion broke down his stall door and then broke down a gelding's stall door and completely savaged a gelding. My (pending) mare was unhurt, the gelding was down, and another boarder was calling me for help.
I got down there to find the little gelding in extreme white-gummed shock, laying down, and with a lot of lost blood with what looked like a mountain-lion's bite on his neck (from the stallion). The owner wasn't coming down even though he knew about the horse, hadn't called a vet, and wasn't going to. The horse was in terrible condition to start with - had just showed up at the barn the day before, a 3 condition with old wounds and looked like he wanted to die.
I got the horse up, washed the wounds, assessed the situation, and found a vet that would come out if the owner wanted. He did nothing. I got an idea and offered to the owner, on the phone, to LOAN him the money so that he could have a vet come out, give the horse banamine, treat the wounds, etc. I said that he could pay me back in cash, or maybe we could work something out to where he could work some of it off if he wanted as well. I offered that as an option to him - since he was doing nothing. He agreed to those terms.
I called the vet who then spoke to the owner who agreed to the care and talked with the vet about how much care, etc. The vet came out and saw this neglected horse who had one shoe hanging on the front, one on the back, overgrown hooves, and some hoodie from a jacket around his neck covering an old untreated wound. He was upset, I was upset about this horse - but he treated it and gave me medicines and things to treat the horse and give the owner.
On the invoice, he stated the treatment of the horse and wrote that I was paying the bill that day with expectations of being paid back. He said he wrote that on the invoice to protect me, and he reduced the bill by over $100 because "YOU are doing the right thing for this horse - this is for you, not the owner".
I asked advice on what to do about the other horses and this horse at the barn which should have had the SPCA called on them - they're that bad. I explained I was trying to educate one of the owners who had 2 horses, but this would be a 3rd one - and what were my options? He said that it would be hard to get the SPCA or animal control to do anything if the horses had minimal care: hay and water, which they did at that time. He said I did have that option however if they didn't start doing better. I thanked him for his advice. I think and I both thought that maybe they would do better - since they HAD to. We were both wrong.
After the vet left, the owner came down that night and sprayed the horse's wounds. I said that I would give the first few days of medicine and treat the wound for those three days and that he could start when the bute meds started. I gave him instructions to check the wound when he came each evening and spray the horse for flies and wash where the surgical drain would be draining serum and gunk to keep the horse clean. I also explained that we put him in a clean stall and his stall needed to be clean as the wound was on the neck and was hard to bandage.
Day one went great. Day 2-3 I cared for the wound so it was wonderful. Day 4, I gave the first dose of bute and left it at the tack room. I explained how to care for the wound from this point out and he had a copy of the care instructions and invoice.
He stopped caring for the wound and stopped cleaning the stall. He stopped feeding the horse and eventually stopped showing up. He did show up one day and whined "can't we stitch this wound up or something?" the day after I removed the surgical drain. I explained that the vet did all the stitching that was safe, that the wound had to drain til it was healed.
The wound became so infected that you could smell it from 3 feet away. His cousin came once and cleaned the wound and pushed the crap in the stall to one side - but then left the rake in the stall, tines up, and that was that for a few days.
I gave in and started taking the horse out to clean it myself. I called the owner to talk to him but he didn't show up. I set another date to talk to him but he didn't show up. I found the horse with a filthy stall again, no hay, and this time no water. I cleaned the stall, watered the horse, gave him some of our feed, and that night I spent an hour cleaning that horse's wound while the owner's father ate bbq at a party at the barn. Again the owner stood me up.
The next day I caught him at the barn. I told him we needed to talk. I told him the horse deserved feed and water, and HAD to have medical care daily. I explained that the wound had worsened. He had never yet offered to pay me anything and it was 2 weeks since the bill was paid. I explained he still had the option of paying it all, paying part of it and working part of it off, or - given the added care the horse would now need and the scarring - that he also had the option of relinquishing the horse to me to dissolve the vet bills. I explained that I would care for the horse for the rest of his life even if he wasn't ridable, he'd be a pasture companion - it was an option. He never said anything except "I'll think about that - I was thinking of buying that other horse" (another horse at the barn).
I asked him to go ahead and at this point just let me take care of the wound, and he would feed the horse - because I had reversed the infection and wanted to see it heal completely - we were so close. I reminded him that legally horses must have water and some food available daily and that if someone knew about his horse, the HSPCA could very well seize him. I reminded him that the vet knew about the horse's condition before and now and that it would be in his best interest to feed the horse daily and make sure his wound was tended.
He agreed. Yet, he came down for the next two days and sprayed different medicines on the wound - didn't clean them, just covered them with purple "because I can see the purple". I cleaned the purple and the dirt/crap out of the wounds and retreated them cleanly and covered them with polo bandages. The wound was 1 day short of being closed and then the owner locked the horse's stall and disappeared. This was 3 days ago.
Today I called to talk to the owner about paying this bill that he has yet to mention. When I did, he said he might pay some... I said that well, it doesn't really work like that, and I was in the process of moving the mare and I'd like to talk to him about paying. He said that he wasn't going to pay the bill because my mare caused the injuries.
I reminded him that the stallion caused the injuries, that my horse did nothing to his horse, and that I was not the owner of the stallion. He said "Yeah well - your horse started it!" I reminded him that while he was MIA, I was the one down there paying for more sprays, spending hours on the wound's care, doing some pretty gross stuff, and at one point giving the horse feed and water because he couldn't be bothered. I asked what I had done to him to cause him to decide now not to pay. He had agreed when I called to paying the entire thing back. He said "you said I could work some of it off". I reminded him "yes, and in the last 21 days you've made absolutely no effort to do anything at all towards that end and you still owe me the $360 vet bill.
He refuses to pay, said I could get a lawyer if I wanted, but that I owe him because my mare got out. I told him that I most certainly would because his word to me was that he agreed to the terms, and this was the first time he was backing out.
So now I'm stuck.
I know that with boarders, if you incur a debt that you have to wait for 60 days while you ask it to be paid. I know that in Texas at that point you can write a letter saying "you have 10 days". At the end of 10 days, you are allowed to take the horse if the debt is not paid without a public notice - or so I've read for Texas law. But what about this situation?
The vet is willing to go to court for me to stand up and testify to the animal's beneath-legal condition and even old untreated wounds. He also was kind enough that time to write ON the invoice that he was treating because the owner and I both knew that the owner agreed to paying back the bill.
The thing is - the stallion's owner is my dear friend. He's even offered to pay some of the bill because I was upset (and crying). I refused, but I know that if anyone has liability it is the stallion owner, not me. I technically didn't even own the mare until the very next day when I purchased her; I was just caring for her.
Does anyone have any advice other than of course contacting an equine lawyer? Has anyone been in this situation? I'm already out over $500 for the vet bill, the added medicines, the gauzes and iodine and other things I had to buy to re-clean the infected wound so that it wouldn't go systemic, much less my time.
Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated.