AUBURN, Maine — A Freeport veterinarian is expected to settle a long-simmering dispute between a retired race horse’s current and former owners over whether he should be euthanized.
An Androscoggin County Superior Court judge ordered Wednesday that the plaintiffs in a civil suit hire Thomas Judd to review the reports of two veterinarians who both say that Knotty, a roughly 20-year-old standardbred has chronic illnesses and may not last through the winter without suffering.
A temporary injunction was issued by Justice MaryGay Kennedy that prevents the horse’s owner, Lisa Bosse, from putting Knotty down or selling him.
Judd is to review the assessments by the other two veterinarians and examine Knotty, if needed within the next couple of weeks. A Dec. 5 court hearing is scheduled to revisit the injunction.
Knotty’s former owners, Jayne and Daniel Buck Soules of Lisbon Falls, went to court after they learned Bosse was planning to end the horse’s life.
David Van Dyke, Bosse’s attorney, said his client had Knotty examined by two veterinarians to determine his overall health and condition.
A veterinarian at Maine Equine Associates of New Gloucester wrote that Knotty’s “neurological condition makes him at risk for a catastrophic fall on the ice this winter.”
The other report, by Annabessacook Veterinarian Clinic of Monmouth, says that Knotty has a severe chronic condition in his hind quarters that makes it difficult for him to stand after lying down or sitting like a dog.
“Knotty is in good condition for an old horse going into winter, but has several chronic conditions, which may influence the owner’s decision to humanely euthanize him before winter sets in.”
Kennedy said she needed more information about Knotty’s condition and prognosis before moving forward with the plaintiff’s motion for a permanent injunction.
“It is clear that you both care for and are concerned about the welfare of this horse,” Kennedy said to the feuding parties. “It is also clear that you are both in strong disagreement as to what is in the best interest of Knotty.”
Kennedy said that disagreement has “really deteriorated and it’s resulted in some pretty serious name-calling.” Hurtful and likely false allegations have been made by both sides, Kennedy said.
She ordered both sides to have no contact with each other except through their attorneys and to stay away from each other’s property.
Kennedy referred to Judd as a “highly respected and sought-after” veterinarian. “He will make a recommendation as to what is in the best interest of the horse,” Kennedy said.
The Souleses said in court papers that they believe Knotty likely is suffering from Lyme disease which, they say, is treatable with the use of antibiotics.
Through their attorney, Curtis Webber, the Souleses dispute Bosse’s conclusion that Knotty has a terminal illness. They said they will suffer emotional distress if Knotty is euthanized.
The Souleses said in court documents that they bought Knotty 11 years earlier for their daughter, who has since left home to attend college. The Souleses both had jobs outside the home and made arrangements with Bosse, who operates RiverView Farm about a mile from the Souleses’ home, to board the horse. In April, they transferred ownership to Bosse.
The Souleses said they pleaded with Bosse to return Knotty to them so they can attend to his health problems without resorting to euthanasia, unless he is, in fact, terminally ill. In that case, they would pay for that procedure, they said.
Included in court papers is an exhibit titled “Bill of Sale,” signed on April 15 with Bosse as the buyer. It stipulates that the Souleses have the right of first refusal to take Knotty back. The document says no money changed hands in the sale.
Other than an eye infection, which the Souleses said has been treated successfully with medication, Knotty’s health has been generally good, they said in court papers.
David Van Dyke, Bosse’s attorney, said she has spent nearly $3,000 on Knotty, including feed, farrier and veterinary expenses.