Five years after the SPCA seized her 73 Morgan horses, the 64 still alive are back at Beth Lynne Hoskins’ Aurora farm.
Her attorney looked pleased after a court hearing Tuesday to figure out how that happened and what comes next.
The lawyer for the SPCA Serving Erie County left frustrated – again.
For his part, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia – whose court orders have not had much effect – seemed puzzled by some of the back-and-forth between the lawyers but also ordered an immediate medical report on all of the horses from Hoskins’ veterinarian.
“I cannot lose sight that these horses are the prime concern,” Glownia said during the hearing. “We have to have some mechanism in place to assure they’re being cared for.”
For those in the courtroom, Tuesday’s legal maneuvering turned into another chapter in Hoskins’ animal cruelty saga. She was convicted two years ago in a town court of 52 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and even spent two months in jail for violating her criminal court-ordered probation.
And, a May 2014 settlement in the civil case before Glownia stipulated that she not own more than 35 horses.
Yet, she hangs onto her herd. Last weekend she re-routed 29 of the horses to her farm – not the Rochester area horse farm as originally intended – from the Niagara County farm where they had been staying. When a court-brokered $50,000 sale of the 29 horses to the Rochester area farm fell apart at the last minute, Hoskins was the one who dictated to the transporter where the horses would go Saturday.
Just how did all this happen?
Her lawyer called it a matter of circumstances.
“I am not trying to justify some of Beth Hoskins’ prior actions, but certainly Saturday’s actions were justifiable given the circumstances,” said George V.C. Muscato, her attorney.
Muscato said Hoskins did the best she could last weekend when Skyloft Morgan Farm owner Jennifer Hartwell of Scottsville contacted Hoskins to say she needed time to make more room for the 29 horses at the Scottsville farm. Hartwell asked Hoskins to take the horses to her Aurora farm for the time being, Muscato said.
But the SPCA isn’t buying that explanation.
“We need a receiver to take care of these horses. These horses need to be sold,” Ralph C. Lorigo, the SPCA’s lawyer, said in court. “We’re certainly frustrated there hasn’t been an end to this case. We’ve been through way too much. We need, in my opinion, to sell all the horses.”
Earlier this month, the judge said all 64 horses would be put under the control of a receiver and then sold if Hoskins did not sell the 29 horses by Dec. 21.
Lorigo wants the judge to issue that order now.
But Glownia said Tuesday that he would appoint a receiver for only the 29 horses that were to have been sold last week.
Glownia plans to interview prospective receivers before naming one.
He said the receiver would be someone with experience with horses. He ordered an immediate report from Hoskins’ veterinarian on the condition of the horses and their value, in case they need to be sold.
Glownia helped broker a Dec. 22 sale of the 29 horses between Hoskins and Hartwell, a friend of Hoskins and someone with whom she did business with years ago.
“The receiver is in total control of all 29 horses until we determine if we have a valid offer,” Glownia said.
Glownia said someone in the community knowledgable about horses cautioned him about trying to sell the horses and warned him of the likelihood that “many of the horses, if sold, would end up being transferred to Canada for destruction.”
Glownia scheduled a Jan. 11 hearing to determine whether the contract with Skyloft Morgan Farm remains valid.
“I don’t know if there actually is a contract in place ... which means I’ll have to appoint a receiver to have control of 29 horses unless I have proof they are all sold and transported immediately,” Glownia said.
In the meantime, the receiver he will appoint for the 29 horses will “oversee” Hoskins’ other 35 horses, but Hoskins will remain in control of the 35 horses, the judge said.
Muscato, who is Hoskins’ attorney, said he was pleased with the judge’s ruling.
“I thought the judge’s decision was extremely fair, considering the circumstances that brought us here today,” Muscato said as he left court.
Hoskins declined to comment, as she left the courthouse with her daughter, Alex, and family friend Jean Knox.
The SPCA’s lawyer expressed frustration, however.
During the hearing, Lorigo listed the unfollowed orders and supposed sales of the horses that never materialized.
He revealed Knox as one of the supposed buyers last summer and that she was to move the 29 horses to Tennessee. That never happened, he said. It also was revealed that Knox mailed a $5,000 check to Moscato last week for the sale that was never completed.
Also, none of the horses that were cared for in Lockport or the 35 at Hoskins’ Aurora farm has been checked with regular inspections because Hoskins has stopped paying the court-ordered inspector, Lorigo said.
Hoskins has consistently failed to follow through on selling the horses, he said.
• She did not meet an August 2014 deadline to sell half her horses.
• When granted an extension, she failed to do so by October 2014.
• A transfer of horses to a court-approved trust followed in December 2014, but she did not sell the horses by January 2015, as required by a court stipulation.
• The court accepted a proposal by an anonymous Buffalo buyer in April, but that unraveled.
• Then the sale of 32 horses to Knox did not happen.
• Last week’s Glownia-brokered deal for the 29 horses between the Rochester-area buyer and Hoskins did not occur.
Now, there’s doubt that sale will happen.
Muscato, who acknowledged that his client “is not without some sins,” accused the SPCA of trying to undermine the sale by asking the Humane Society of Greater Rochester whether Skyloft Morgan Farm could handle the 29 horses.
Muscato urged Glownia to sanction the SPCA.
“I am not confident the sale will go through because the SPCA has done everything to interfere with this contract and have poisoned the well,” he said.
Lorigo denied the accusation. “The SPCA did not interfere,” he said.
Lorigo called the accusation more “half-truths” from the Hoskins side.
“How am I to determine whether the sale was interfered with or it was a sham?” Glownia asked in court.
The judge at the Jan. 11 hearing will look into the accusation.