EQUUS - - Special Report -

to come back and care for them. Real es­tate agents or those buy­ing land oc­cu­pied by aban­doned horses will of­ten call the sher­iff’s depart­ment for help, as will landown­ers who find aban­doned horses on prop­erty they had leased out. If you know that a neigh­bor has moved, and you see no ev­i­dence that any horses left be­hind are re­ceiv­ing care, you can re­port th­ese cases to the au­thor­i­ties to in­ves­ti­gate, too.

It is not typ­i­cally con­sid­ered a crim­i­nal mat­ter if some­one aban­dons an an­i­mal at a board­ing barn. Rather, it’s a civil breach-of-con­tract is­sue—this is why all board­ing barns need good con­tracts and should un­der­stand how to file liens in their state.

• Stray live­stock, called “estray” in some states, are an­i­mals in­clud­ing horses who ei­ther wan­der loose or who show up on some­one else’s prop­erty. If you see loose horses or other live­stock, call the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to re­port them. Not only may their owner be look­ing for them, but they’re also in dan­ger of be­ing hit by a ve­hi­cle, which can re­sult in se­vere in­jury or death to the an­i­mal as well as the peo­ple in the ve­hi­cle.

The ex­cep­tion is horses who are in des­ig­nated “open range” or “fence out” ar­eas. Cat­tle and other live­stock are al­lowed to roam freely in large swaths of many Western states—if you as a prop­erty owner want to keep them off your land, it is your re­spon­si­bil­ity to put up a fence to keep them out.

If a strange horse shows up on your prop­erty, re­port it to the au­thor­i­ties right away. If you don’t, and the horse had been re­ported stolen, you may be in­ves­ti­gated for theft if the an­i­mal is dis­cov­ered in your barn. When you call, ei­ther of­fer to hold the horse for the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties un­til the own­ers are lo­cated, or re­quest that the horse be picked up and treated as a stray.

Each state has its own laws for ex­actly how strays are han­dled. In most cases, they must be held for a cer­tain amount of time while the au­thor­i­ties at­tempt to lo­cate their own­ers. They’ll check for mi­crochips or any rel­e­vant brand reg­is­tra­tions, and they may also place “found live­stock” ads in the news­pa­per or on county or city web­sites.

The laws will also de­tail the fines or costs own­ers must pay to re­claim their strays as well as what is done with the an­i­mals if no owner is found. A lot of peo­ple be­lieve that if you find a stray horse, he is yours to keep, but that’s not true. If you want him, you may have to file for adop­tion once all le­gal re­quire­ments have been met.

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