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SPCA, Hoskins differ over ruling on horses' care; Appellate Court finds in favor of agency

The SPCA Serving Erie County says Beth Lynne Hoskins owes it $118,000 for caring for 32 of her Morgan horses over the past 19 months -- and also must start paying it more each month.

The agency says it should receive $6,258.60 more per month on top of the $13,456 she currently pays for their care.

That's the SPCA's interpretation of a unanimous order by the State Supreme Court Appellate Division in Rochester, which largely found in favor of the agency in its appeal of State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Glownia's one-month bond order dating to December 2010.

"This money is going to end up having to be paid for, by her The cost to care for these horses has been tremendous," said SPCA attorney Ralph C. Lorigo, of the Appellate Division ruling in the civil portion of the case. "This is a substantial win. It clearly shows that when the SPCA or an animal cruelty organization goes in and seizes animals, the courts in New York State will shift the economic cost burden from the rescuing agency back to the animal owner."

Hoskins is in the midst of a nonjury criminal trial before Aurora Town Justice Douglas W. Marky on 74 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty tied to horses the SPCA seized from her farm on March 18, 2010.

Hoskins' attorney had a completely different take on the appellate ruling and vowed to file an appeal to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals. Thomas J. Eoannou, who represents Hoskins in both the civil and criminal cases, said his client does not owe any retroactive pay to the SPCA and instead emphasized that the higher court order points to just the month of December 2010.

"We want to go through every bill for the last 16 months and see what the SPCA actually spent out of what was ordered by Glownia," Eoannou said.

But Lorigo emphasized that even though Glownia's order set the bond at $13,456.40 for one month's worth of care for 33 of Hoskins' horses in December 2010, since then, his office and Eoannou had agreed that amount would continue going forward until the case was resolved; otherwise the attorneys would have had to be in court arguing it each subsequent month.

"She has paid us every single month for the last 19 months of care," Lorigo said. "How do you answer that? She has paid that $13,456 a month for 19 months."

In fact, Lorigo said Hoskins ultimately should be expected to pay additional bond money for the horses' care from the time of the raid at her farm on March 18, 2010, to December 2010.

Glownia has allowed 40 of the horses to be returned to Hoskins' Town of Aurora farm, but the SPCA continues to care for 32 horses at foster farms. There had been 33 horses in the agency's care, though one of them died in January.

One of the charges against Hoskins stems from the Thanksgiving Day 2009 euthanization by a veterinarian of one of her horses, which had been described as weak and emaciated.

The Appellate Division modified its June 8 order by saying that it agreed with the SPCA that the State Supreme Court had erred in failing to award expenses tied to "boarding," and so it increased the amount of security. The higher court also said the lower court's calculation of expenses for employee wages is erroneous because it failed to account for one of the agency's part-time employees and is based upon a 28-day month.

SPCA Executive Director Barbara Carr is ecstatic about the appellate ruling. "We're pleased to have more of the costs carried by the defendant," she said. "In most cases, the defendant, most of the time, carries most of the costs."

Larry Robb, head of the SPCA board of directors, said the ruling "definitely eases the pain."

"There was more going out than coming in," he said, noting the agency spends roughly $22,000 per month on the 32 horses in its care.

The cost calculations will be adjusted since one of Hoskins' horses died in January and the agency is now responsible for 32 instead of 33 horses, Lorigo said.

The Appellate Division, however, said that costs the SPCA sought for security and miscellaneous expenses were not reasonable under the state Agriculture and Markets Law.

email: krobinson@buffnews.com