Can I forcefully take ownership of a horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 07-30-2019, 10:42 PM Thread Starter
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Can I forcefully take ownership of a horse?

We have been boarding at a self care facility for awhile (all open pastures), and there we met a very sweet horse. This horse was skin and bones, rarely had water, takes several weeks for the owners to get a farrier out, and he'd go without hay for weeks. His owners are terrified of him, and thus are never out there to take care of him. It's a wonder if they respond to our texts the same day. Since we've been out there we've been feeding him, filling his water, and have had to make the owner of the facility tell the owners to get hay and feet trims. Thankfully, we have been keeping track of the money we've spent taking care of him, and the gas mileage when we've had to run out there to save him from heat stroke. He's an older horse, that they never spray down in the summer. The facility owner had seen him acting weird and called us because the horse's owners didn't answer.

In short, if we were to round up the expenses to be worth as much as they bought him for, could we forcefully take ownership of him? We love this horse, and he's been neglected to the point that he's been on the boarder of death several times. We don't want to open a lawsuit if we can avoid it, or get an officer involved because he's gotten some weight back on him since we've started feeding him so they won't see a reason to seize him. What can we do?
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post #2 of 18 Old 08-01-2019, 01:28 PM
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So if I'm right you just happen to board your horse at the same place? Do you even have permission from the owners to be caring for him?

If you were the barn owner he could be seized for breach of contract/lack of payment. It sounds like you have no involvement in this situation aside from what you've *taken upon yourself* to do. You can't decide you'll do something for someone else's horse with or without permission then use that to try and seize the animal! I can't imagine there is anything you could do legally, especially without a lawsuit (which I expect you would lose). Also, the horse is a possession, if you did win a lawsuit they could just pay you back and keep the horse.

That said, it sounds like they don't really want the horse. Why not approach the owners directly and see if they will rehome him to you. They might want a hopefully reasonable (small) fee or maybe they will be happy to have him in good hands. It won't hurt to try and do things the old fashioned way :).

Btw, it's not normal for a horse to have heat stroke repeatedly. I've *meant* to hose mine down on several brutal days and it hasn't happened. They're fine.
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post #3 of 18 Old 08-01-2019, 02:29 PM
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- are the owners of the horse paying their board bill? If so, there's nothing to be done unless you approach the owners and see if they will sell him to you.

- if they are not paying the bill, legally the barn owner can take possession of the horse and resell the animal in an attempt to procure lost funds. How long and what the protocol is on this varies from state to state, so contacting a lawyer would be needed, but again-- this is the barn owner's responsibility, not yours.

- you are opening yourself and the barn up to a lawsuit caring for someone else's horse without their written permission. Your barn owner should NOT be allowing you to care for someone else's horse--- he/she should be doing that, not another client.

- the horse's owners have the best of everything--- you are caring for their horse so they don't have to! And your barn owner is either clueless or taking advantage of you, too.

- horses do not get heat stroke easily or repeatedly. Perhaps this horse is being cared for, just not to YOUR standard of care? In which place, you need to step back and butt out.

- as a client of a facility, it is not your place to be telling the barn owner what to do. Period.

I know your heart is in the right place, but you could be causing more issues than you are solving. If the horse is not being cared for and supplied with food, shelter, and water then it is the BARN OWNER'S fault-- the owner of the property is ultimately responsible for the care of the animals on that property, whether they are being paid for it or not. So no, you cannot seize a horse you've been taking care of just because you have decided to take it upon yourself to do so.
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post #4 of 18 Old 08-01-2019, 02:37 PM
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Um, no. You can't take someone's horse. You do not have the authority to do that no matter how badly the horse is treated. You also have no reason to expect to get reimbursed for driving out there to look after the horse.

The barn owner has recourse, but you do not. If the horse is suffering abuse or neglect, you should call appropriate authorities or let the barn owner deal with it. I can't just stop on the side of the road and feed an animal repeatedly then expect that he'll be mine.

I would suggest you stop getting involved and tell the BO that he needs to do something about the situation, call the authorities who will determine whether or not the horse is actually being mistreated, or if you insist on wanting to help this horse, do it out of the goodness of your heart, not out of an expectation that anyone owes you anything.
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post #5 of 18 Old 08-01-2019, 02:46 PM
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I don't care who owns the horse, I would definitely take it upon myself to feed and water it if the owners wouldn't! I couldn't board my horse and watch another horse starve. I would discuss this with the barn owner and go from there or approach the owner and see it they will work something out where they pay you a fee to take care of the horse's basic needs. In my opinion, it seems like the owners know someone else is taking care of their horse and are ok with taking advantage of you.
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post #6 of 18 Old 08-01-2019, 02:46 PM
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No, you can't just take their horse...if you want to speak to the owners, you can, that's up to you, but it could cause some issues.
Otherwise, not really your problem. See what the barn owner will do. I wouldn't continue to involve yourself in can get ugly. Since the horse is on the BO's property, they are the ones who are responsible ultimately to handle this...not you.

What you are doing for the horse (water, feed, etc.) is very nice & I am sure it's hard NOT to do those things...I don't understand why the barn owner isn't doing those things...but taking ownership is another story, you can't just take their horse...

I know it can be heartbreaking, but overall there is not much you can do about this. The BO needs to step in. Sorry you are dealing with this.
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post #7 of 18 Old 08-01-2019, 03:07 PM
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I'm hearing Rocket Racoon from Guardians of the Galaxy here:

Rocket: But... what if I want it more than the other guy does?

John C. Reilly: Noooo... that's stealing...

No. Sadly you can't take the horse. YOU CAN report the owners to the police and/or sheriff. IF they take possession of the horse, you can then offer to purchase it from them. This of course will vary state by state depending on the law.

I also don't know what your state law is on this, but you might look into filing a small claims law suit against the owner to recoup your money expended on this horse and possibly have the horse awarded to you as settlement in lieu of cash, but you need to talk to an attorney in your area about that.

Am I missing it? Have you asked the barn owner what's up with that horse? I know they called you that time the owner wouldn't answer, but do they not know anything more about what's up with the horse?

"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us."
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post #8 of 18 Old 08-01-2019, 03:21 PM
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Why not offer the owners some small amount of money for the horse. They will probably sell him to you cheap.

Carpe Diem!
Celeste is offline  
post #9 of 18 Old 08-01-2019, 03:27 PM
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Welcome to the Forum!!

Think we are all sounding like a broken record...
You have a hornets nest on your hands in my opinion.
You could try just making contact with the horses owner and offering to adopt the animal, or buy it...yes, spend more money to gain ownership. Actually, I would offer and get a receipt for even if $1.00 from the people who are said owners of the animal so it is legal and binding.

Now, where I see a potential problem is you did not involve the authorities, just did...
As bad a condition as the animal is/was, you had no right as the animal is private property and my fear is you and your kind hearts could actually now be in legal trouble.
The property owner had some rights and in many locales is the one held accountable by authorities for a animal in this condition actually.
So, B/O {barn owner} could of called and turned in the horses owners to law enforcement, animal control as this is a self-care facility blah, blah, blah...
As it is now...any case that could of been made for seizure is now not going to happen because you took upon and did in the interest of the animals well-being...
Sadly, it takes a long time to build a case and as soon as food, water are provided {regardless of who provided} it halts a investigation that may have been underway. That is a private matter and not told to anyone it is happening..even authorities do not tell each other when working a seizure case of neglect pending it is that hush-hush.
Please, I am not attacking you, but it may have stopped and now extend a bad situation further.
There is nothing you can do but approach and ask for the animal, offer to buy it and if the owner says no...then it is no.
As for getting your money one but you chose to spend the money.
Forget it!!
You have no grounds to sue the grounds.
You in fact jeopardized the horses health by feeding it food you have no idea if the horse had a health condition that prevents specific foods from being ingested is how the laws could see this...
You could be sued, and the horses owners win for doing without permission to their animal.
As for your barn owner...he has put you in a delicate spot with not a leg to stand on and he walks away scot-free with no bills for food, no lawsuit in his direction and if the agencies were going to seize now they can't.
Win-win for B/O and horses owner and a big uh-oh for you...

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #10 of 18 Old 08-02-2019, 12:56 AM
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Since no one asked you to spend money to help someone else's horse, you can't use the fact that you did to coerce the owners.
However, since you kept track of what you've spent, you could use it as a kind of incentive to get the owners to sign the horse's ownership over to you.

If you'd left the horse looking neglected and underweight, you could have used that as leverage. Meaning, you could have told the owners that in the shape the horse was in, you could call the authorities and they could face heavy fines. Or if they preferred, they could sign ownership of the horse over to you and they could avoid fines plus the horse would be taken care of. Win/win.

Now you don't have that leverage. Still, what you've spent could be incentive for the owners. When I rescued a horse that was brought in supposedly for training, I told her owner that I had spent $1,000 on food, board, medicine and vet bills just in the first month. I explained to her that in order to get and keep the horse healthy she would need to spend around $200 a month, plus expect other expenses throughout the year. The horse also needed training, tack, and more. She did not want to spend that kind of money, so signed the horse over to me.

Friends of mine convinced a petting farm to sign over two mini horses that were being neglected by also outlining the costs for hoof care, dental care, worming, shots, feed, and other necessities. Sometimes people get horses and don't understand that it will cost them quite a bit of money to keep the horses healthy. Often even if they like the horse, they will give it away if they realize how much it could cost them to take care of it.
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