Lemon Law for Horses
It is unfortunate that there are dishonest people who would misrepresent a horse, but there is no “lemon law” for horses. The buyer must take the initiative to determine the condition of the horse before purchase.
Some auctions give a seller the opportunity to agree in writing that the horse may be returned within a number of days if it is not as represented. A reputable seller will allow the buyer to have the horse vetted before purchase. He may even suggest it. A buyer may also request an agreement in writing designating a trial period where the horse can be returned if not suitable. These actions protect the buyer and the reputation of the seller.
Unwanted horses have become a major problem in our equine world, and has led to an increase in boarding stable owners caring for abandoned horses. Even if the boarding contract states that unpaid board for a specified period of time will result in the horse becoming the property of the barn owner, there is still a legal process to be followed to take ownership and the assistance of an attorney and/or district justice is necessary.
Pennsylvania does have laws regarding this situation. One is found in the Uniform Commercial Code, specifically Title 13, of PA’s Consolidated Statutes. An agricultural lien is defined as: an interest in farm products: which secures payment or performance of an obligation for goods or services furnished in connection with a debtor’s farming operation. Agricultural liens are referenced in Chapters 9315 and 9606. Even though this statute is not specific to horses, unpaid board bills are agricultural liens.
There is also an 1864 law that seems to be a more clarified fit to the problem. Act 965 of 1864, Section 1 states that after a bill remains unpaid for 30 days and after due notice in a newspaper and local posting, a person can sell property (Horses are property). Section 2 states that if the owner’s place of residence is unknown, verified by affidavit, or if the property is of a perishable nature, a judge of the city or county may authorize the sale of such property. I think it can be argued that horses are of a perishable nature and very often the location of the owner is unknown. (The age of a law does not make it any less applicable and enforceable.)
Even with knowledge of the law, the process takes time while the horse or horses continue to need care. The board bill may exceed the value of the horse and a suitable home may be hard to find. It may seem ridiculous for stable owners to require, in addition to a boarding contract, credit ratings, references, etc from potential boarders, but it may save problems down the trail.
On the other hand, there have been cases where a horse was given away and years later, the original owner wanted it back. If the current owner has records of care, ie. vet and farrier records, feed bills, etc., ownership should be evident. To prevent any question, it is always advisable that a free horse comes with a signed bill of sale for $1 and/or a transferred registration paper if applicable.
There were new legislators elected to the PA House of Representatives and Senate. It is important to know who your legislators are.