Indiana Court Orders Man to Pay $96,000 for Rehabilitative Care for Eight Starving Horses Seized in 2007

Posted on September 8, 2010

Crucial Legal Victory Awarded in Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Case to Secure Horses’ Permanent Safety from their Abuser

October 12, 2010:
The United States Equine Rescue League (USERL),
represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and Robert Collier entered
into a settlement agreement, and the case involving eight severely
neglected horses seized from Collier was dismissed. USERL agreed to give
up its right to the $96,500 judgment the court had awarded it in
September, and Collier agreed to give up all rights in the horses and
all claims against USERL. This means that full and permanent custody
of the once-neglected horses now goes to USERL, which has been fostering
and rehabilitating the horses since their rescue.
With no chance
that the horses will ever be returned to their abuser, ALDF can at last
celebrate a final victory for these horses!

Little E is one of the horses rescued from their abuser.September 8, 2010

Marion, Ind.-This morning, the Grant County Circuit Court ordered Robert Collier to pay $96,000 to the United States Equine Rescue League (USERL) for the cost of caring for eight severely neglected horses who were seized from him and Rebecca Collier in Marion County in November 2007 in a case filed by attorneys at the national non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in June 2009. Indiana lien law establishes that USERL has a common law lien claim against Collier for the horses’ care; $96,000–or $13 per day, per horse–represents the costs that USERL has incurred so far in providing routine and supportive care to the horses since they were seized from Collier when the Marion-Grant County Humane Society discovered dogs and horses on the Colliers’ farm in states of severe neglect and starvation. Collier was charged with two counts of animal cruelty and neglect in connection with this case.

Indiana statutes provide USERL the right to ownership of the eight horses because of Collier’s failure to pay for the costs of their care. According to today’s Court order granting USERL’s motion for partial summary judgment, “Here, there is no dispute in the designated evidentiary materials that the intervention of the USERL was necessary to maintain the care of the horses due to the emergency situation that they were in. Further, there is no dispute that $13 per horse [per] day was a reasonable cost of keeping the horses and that appropriate care had been given to them after they were discovered in their unhealthy condition suffered at the hands of Mr. Collier.” ALDF’s novel use of a lien statute in USERL v. Collier to secure safety for abused animals makes this case not only a victory for these eight horses, but an important step forward in the growing field of animal law.

“Horses suffering from neglect experience psychological trauma in addition to the unimaginable physical pain of slowly starving to death,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund applauds the Court for ordering that if Mr. Collier should choose to continue to fight us for custody of these horses–a fight that ALDF will wage until their safety, for the rest of their lives, is fully secured–he must first foot the bill for the diligent and compassionate rehabilitation work done by their rescuers. Our ultimate concern is that these beautiful, now thriving horses are never returned to the man who abused them.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. Pro bono assistance in this case is being provided by the law firm DLA Piper and local counsel Rae Feller. Photographs of the rescued horses and a copy of the Court’s order granting the motion for partial summary judgment are available upon request.

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