Time I think for Judge Judy! Seriously though, this is a tough lesson for everyone. If you don't have anything in writing and signed by both parties, no matter which country you are in, the Law is the same - nothing in writing means no contract no matter how many receipts etc you produce. In Law, if you pay for something for an animal on someone else's behalf e.g. vets fees without the owners written agreement or anything else which the owner has not given express permission to pay for, then you cannot claim compensation/prove ownership or anything else. It is a case of 'on your own head be it'. The ONLY exception to this would be if an animal was in extreme distress and needed life/death vetinary care then it would be a case of animal welfare and you could 'technically' ask for recompense from the owner. Still no guarantees you would get it. The moral of the story, do not do anyone favours, pay for an animal's needs which you do not own or believe a verbal agreement holds up in law. It doesn't and while most people are honest and would stump up payment for their animal, there are the few who spoil it for everyone else. As for the Sheriff telling the horse owners the 'horse stays where it is'. unless the Sheriff posted a guard /removed the animal to a place of safety or the owners lived on site and had the barn under security, there is no-one to stop the horse being removed by its legal owners. It would now be up to the Sheriff to pursue the matter if he or she so wished but somehow, it is going to be a case of the Sheriff having more pressing things to do than bother about owners taking their horse back. If you feel the animal is in danger or going to be badly treated then the only thing you can do is report the matter to animal welfare. It is a tough, harsh world.