Some of Beth Lynne Hoskins’ Morgan horses – animals she has been ordered to sell but has not – may finally have a permanent home by Christmas Eve.
Twenty-nine horses are now under contract to be sold this week for $50,000 to a friend of Hoskins with a Morgan horse farm in the Rochester area. Hoskins was convicted two years ago of abusing 52 of her horses on her Aurora horse farm.
The bulk of the details of the current case were sealed in court documents Tuesday after a nearly two-hour closed-door session among State Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia, Hoskins and her civil attorney, George V.C. Muscato, the new buyer and attorneys for the SPCA Serving Erie County.
The 29 horses are at Marie Bennett’s 22-acre Foxhunt Stables in Lockport, four months after they arrived there for what was to be a temporary two-week stay arranged in August by Hoskins. According to the SPCA, Bennett contacted the agency two weeks ago to report that Hoskins’ horses had been abandoned on her Niagara County farm and to say she had gone into tens of thousands of dollars of debt trying to keep them fed since August.
That arrangement turned into a nightmare from Bennett’s perspective. SPCA officials said they first learned of the horses’ location from Bennett this month and not from the court. The agency said it had thought the horses had already been sold in late August and were in Rochester.
Bennett said she is not equipped with indoor stalls to care for 29 horses outdoors with winter approaching and has no way to get them water when it freezes. She said she racked up debt as Hoskins fell behind paying her and the two-week stay turned into four months. Bennett told The Buffalo News on Tuesday that she has been using her own mortgage money and borrowing from her father to feed Hoskins’ horses.
To date, Hoskins said she has paid $9,000 to Bennett, who says the hay cost alone has totaled $22,794.
“They’re still at my house. My whole life has been rearranged by this,” Bennett said. “I’ve been taking money out of my mortgage money to feed these horses. Nobody is worried about the horses. It’s become Marie Bennett’s problem. It’s all about what Beth is wearing and where her daughter is going to school. I can’t believe Judge Glownia let this go on and left the horses in my care.”
Glownia last week issued an order stipulating that all of Hoskins’ 64 horses be put under the control of a court-appointed receiver if 29 of them were not sold by Monday. Now, the sale of 29 horses to Jennifer Hartwell of Skyloft Morgan Farm in Scottsville is going forward, sources said. A previous sale via Hoskins’ trust fell through, but the latest sale is expected to be completed this week, with an initial $5,000 payment to the court. The remaining $5,000 monthly payments spread over nine months would be paid to the court for later distribution to those owed money.
But the pending sale to Skyloft Farm sparked new concerns since Hartwell’s 80-acre farm already has 30 horses and just eight stalls.
Skyloft Farm was checked last week by Lollypop Farm, Humane Society of Greater Rochester, after a citizen filed a complaint in November expressing concern about the welfare of the horses. After an initial check by humane society personnel, it was not determined to be a cruelty case, but recommendations were made about increasing feed and follow-up checks are planned, said Kristina Faller, associate director of communications for Lollypop Farm. It is considered an “open case,” but the agency feels matters are being resolved there, Faller said.
About the same time, Barbara S. Carr, Erie County SPCA executive director, contacted the Rochester-area humane group out of concern about how Hoskins’ 29 horses could be accommodated on a farm without stalls for the horses that it already has.
SPCA officials blasted Glownia for his overall handling of the Hoskins case, blaming him for not leveling meaningful consequences for Hoskins and not following many of his own orders, which they say allows Hoskins to continue manipulative tactics and further enable her behavior.
Hoskins, in turn, said the SPCA continues to be out of control, calling its behavior a “draconian abuse of power” that “will not be tolerated.”
Efforts to reach Glownia for comment were unsuccessful.
SPCA officials also said a “ruse” was pulled when Hoskins’ attorneys allegedly convinced Glownia that the earlier sale was not completed in August because the horses in Niagara County had contracted “strangles,” a highly contagious upper respiratory infection requiring immediate quarantine and treatment with antibiotics.
Bennett said that she came to the courthouse two weeks ago to tell the judge of the developments but that she was not allowed to speak with him.
A veterinarian sent to Bennett’s farm Monday determined the horses did not show signs of strangles, SPCA officials said.
“The court has not done its due diligence in this case,” Carr said.
Hoskins emerged from Glownia’s chambers saying she hopes that this is the end of the issue. “I’m praying it’s over,” said Hoskins, whose 35 other horses remain at her farm on Emery Road in the Town of Aurora. She declined to discuss the timing of moving the horses or the buyer, saying that there were some safety concerns. “Many people have tried to take advantage of a very unfortunate situation,” she said, but “I feel elated because I see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“Is this the end? I don’t know,” said Muscato, Hoskins’ attorney. “Nothing about this case, that’s been around for five years, has a finality about it.”
Meanwhile, court-appointed horse farm trustees Jean R. Knox, widow of Seymour H. Knox III, and Clarence horse farm owner Hans J. Mobius, have resigned their positions. “She’s having problems with getting her money,” Mobius said of Hoskins in an interview Tuesday. “She ran out of money to fund the trust. We were disbursing the funds, but no funds were coming in and the bank canceled the account so there was no need to continue as trustee.”