Deadbeat Horse Boarders Addressed by Kentucky Law

Horse owners who fail to pay boarding fees can and do create real hardship for farm owners. Legislation was recently signed into law that will dramatically improve the outlook for boarding operations left in the lurch by non-paying horse owners.

Ginny Grulke, Executive Director of the Kentucky Horse Council (KHC), testified before the Kentucky House of Representatives Agriculture Subcommittee in November 2008. She presented an overview of the state of the Kentucky Horse Industry and addressed the rising incidence of fiscally abandoned horses. These horses rapidly incur maintenance expenses which can easily overwhelm boarding facilities. Lawmakers were encouraged by Grulke to examine the need for an appropriate agisters lien to help boarding facilities limit expenses and recover costs on such animals.

Before this law passed, fiscally abandoned equines had to be held for at least one year before the boarding facility could file a lien and sell the animals to recover cost. Often, by that time, the facility operator had spent far more on the care of the animal than the resale value.

Representative Royce Adams (D) introduced HB 331 in February. This bill allows people providing care for animals to sell the animal after 45 days of delinquency in an effort to recover costs, rather than take a lien against the animal. The bill swiftly moved into the Senate where it was championed by Senator Damon Thayer (R).

"In the past, boarding facilities had to write contracts that specifically addressed the handling of fiscally abandoned horses," remarked Madelyn Millard, KHC Board President. "Facilities that failed to have provisions too often suffered devastating financial consequences when owners failed to pay bills. The Kentucky Horse Council is pleased to be part of the solution in supporting equine business owners."

The bill was signed into law on March 24, 2009, by Gov. Steve Beshear (D) as a revision to KRS 376.400, which previously addressed cattle only. Under the new law an animal can be sold if it has been fiscally abandoned by an owner for more than 45 days. Proper legal notification is required including newspaper advertisements and written notification to the owner. The new law will go into effect June 25, 2009.

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