Beth Lynne Hoskins is getting her horses back.
A year and a half after State Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia first ordered her to sell 29 of her horses and less than a week after he helped broker the deal in closed chambers, Hoskins on Saturday defied his order and began shipping the horses back to her Aurora farm where they were found living in filthy conditions in 2010. The 29 horses had been boarded since August at a Lockport farm as they awaited their final sale. The News reached out to Glownia about Hoskins’ most recent snubbing of his order, but he did not respond to a message left at his home.
A top official with the SPCA Serving Erie County, which estimated that it has spent $1.3 million in legal fees and animal care on the case since conducting a raid on Hoskins’ farm five years ago, was furious.
“This is the same place we always are. ... There’s an order, it isn’t followed. There’s an order. It isn’t followed. There’s an order, it isn’t followed, there’s no repercussion. There’s an order, it isn’t followed, there isn’t any repercussion. This is not surprising. Same old, same old, don’t you think?” said Barbara S. Carr, the agency’s executive director.
Hoskins, who contends she has financial difficulties, has hired several lawyers to defend her and to try to keep control of her horses. She did not return a message seeking comment.
George V.C. Muscato, Hoskins’ attorney, said he had not talked to his client as of Saturday afternoon and he doesn’t know why she had the horses moved back to her property.
The sale of half the horses owned by Hoskins — she is allowed to keep 35 others — was ordered following her July 2013 conviction in a closely-watched animal-cruelty trial in Aurora Town Court. But Saturday’s move to block the sale of the horses to a Monroe County farm means the years-long Hoskins saga shows no sign of reaching a conclusion.
The Hoskins’ saga traces back to March 2010, when the SPCA seized 73 of Hoskins’ horses, along with 53 cats and four dogs, during what it called its largest roundup of animals in decades.
The agency described unsanitary and neglectful conditions, but Hoskins defended the care she provided her horses and the two sides engaged in a lengthy and contentious standoff.
Hoskins eventually was found guilty of 52 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, but she avoided jail time when she was sentenced in October 2013 by Aurora Town Justice Douglas W. Marky. He instead issued her three years of probation, including 500 hours of community service, and fined her $52,410.
However, in December 2014, she was sentenced to 90 days in jail for violating her probation in the case, and was released in early February with time off for good behavior.
It was up to Glownia, in State Supreme Court, to decide the custody of the horses. In May 2014, he agreed to allow Hoskins to keep 35 of her horses, subject to regular inspections by a court-appointed inspector to ensure they are properly cared for, but he ordered the other 33 horses that remained alive at the time must be sold by Oct. 30, 2014.
On Oct. 31 of that year, Glownia found Hoskins in contempt of court for not following through on his sale order.
Last December, Glownia ordered that the horses, now numbering 32, must be sold or transferred by the end of January of this year. Control of the horses on her farm also passed to two trustees, friends of hers from the horse community, who were supposed to arrange for the sale.
The January deadline later was extended to Feb. 24, and again until April.
SPCA officials thought the sale to a horse farm in Monroe County, Skyloft Farm in Scottsville, had taken place in August, and they were surprised to learn this month that the horses remained boarded on a Lockport farm, Foxhunt Stables.
Glownia, Hoskins, Muscato, the buyer and an attorney for the SPCA hammered out the details of a sale agreement following a two-hour, closed-door meeting in Glownia’s chambers last Tuesday. The horses were under contract to be sold for $50,000.
Marie Bennett, owner of Foxhunt Stables, had agreed to board the horses for a couple of weeks in August until the transfer to Skyloft Farm could take place. She said she has provided sufficient, basic care for the horses — hay, grain and access to water — as called for in a standard boarding arrangement. But she said Hoskins did not provide the veterinary, farrier — care of hooves — or deworming services that were Hoskins’ responsibility to provide. Bennett said Hoskins has paid her $9,000 for care of the horses but still owes her about $6,700.
Ruthie Trottnow, a Lockport woman who boards one horse at Foxhunt, said Bennett provides more than adequate care to her horses. “It really needs to be out there that Marie has taken good care of these horses. And this thing that I think Beth Hoskins is going to try to say, that the sale fell through because Marie did not take good care of the horses, is a lie,” Trottnow said.
Bennett said she was reluctant to see the 29 horses go to Skyloft, because she said the Monroe County farm already has 30 horses and just eight stalls. Jennifer Hartwell, owner of Skyloft Farm, did not return a message seeking comment.
Bennett said she initially had tried to block a horse hauler from picking up the horses from her property, but on the advice from an attorney she agreed to allow Bill Hopkins onto Foxhunt on Saturday morning and helped him round up the eight horses for the first load.
It was only when she began following the trailer with the seven horses in the second load, and he didn’t drive toward Scottsville, that she realized he was taking the horses to Hoskins’ farm and not to the farm of the buyer.
“Somebody needs to keep an eye on those horses, to make sure they’re taken care of,” Bennett said.
Hopkins, the hauler, moved three loads of horses Saturday with another load scheduled Sunday, according to Bennett. State Supreme Court is closed on Monday, but Ralph Lorigo, the lawyer for the SPCA, and Muscato, Hoskins’ attorney, said they plan to speak to Glownia on Monday to figure out the next step in the process.
“The judge has been fairly clear on it: commence this transaction or he’s going to take other steps,” Muscato told The News.