Saturday, March 7, 2009

You can't pick your parents, or your owners if you're a horse!

I got an e-mail last night that made me want to whack my head against a wall.

Foreclosed Home Owner ("FHO") left her property and took all the horses but one. She left behind some kind of stallion that no one can catch. FHO, clearly a compassionate and thoughtful horsewoman, told the bank to "just shoot it."

(FHO, for the record, denies that this is her stallion. It was "dumped on her" a few years ago. Folks, if something is dumped on you and you do not take all the necessary steps at the time to get the actual owner to remove it or pay for it, it becomes your animal and your problem. We shall note that FHO has not, in those few years, managed to get up off the couch and halter break the stallion living in her yard.)

I'll provide more details once this is all resolved but for now I will tell you that people are trying to do the right thing and that no one is going to try to shoot a loose horse. It does, however, bring up a good question:

We all know that some owners have chosen to deal with foreclosure by letting the animals loose, taking them to the auction, or giving them away. But what happens when an owner walks away and leaves the animal on the foreclosed property?

What are the banks doing?

I've heard of cases where a horrified realtor has come upon abandoned animals and has taken it upon him/herself to place the animals. In those cases, kudos for them. I just hope they are screening. If you need some advice on how to screen, click here.

In this case that I just heard about, the bank was upset that a concerned neighbor was going to the property to feed the animal - but someone has to feed it. News flash to bank, it sounds to me like the animal just became yours if it's on YOUR property and you should be darn grateful if a neighbor is feeding it so you don't have to pay for that or chase FHO for the money. I do see the bank's issue - now it's their property. They don't have a liability release from concerned neighbor. If Wild Stallion kicks him/her in the head, his/her family can easily sue Wealthy Bank for a large sum.

Here's another situation that's going on - Paul Greenwood, a wealthy pony breeder, was recently arrested for investment fraud. It is alleged that much of Mr. Greenwood's substantial wealth came from defrauding his clients. Not an uncommon story, but Mr. Greenwood has 80+ high quality show ponies and his accounts have been frozen. My understanding is that his panicking wife is begging for permission to sell some ponies to feed the rest. 80+ ponies create one hell of a hay bill, and thanks to the accounts being frozen, the Greenwood farm staff got rubber paychecks. Come on! I understand freezing accounts in a case like this, but law enforcement must ensure that innocent people and animals are not victimized - and I am frightened that is not happening. This is the case we are hearing about, but how often is this going on with less famous debtors/criminals?

I always wonder about animals belonging to people arrested for drugs, where seizing everything that person owns is common. What happens to them? Who feeds them, cares for them? What process is used to rehome them, or who holds them while the case is going on? They so often wind up being auctioned - so great, they are going to kill because they were owned by a druggie? How is that fair?

So I want to hear your stories. What has happened in your neighborhood like this? How has law enforcement dealt with animals where property/assets are seized? What about banks and realtors? I want to hear the good stories and the bad. If you handle foreclosures for a bank, tell me what your policies are. I also want to hear your thoughts on solutions. I was wondering if it would help to offer some free seminars for banks/realtors on how to deal with abandoned animals, what the law says you can and can't do, etc.? I'll leave this topic up for the rest of the weekend...and I'll let you know what happens with the stallion!