Horse care facility says N.Y. AG ignoring evidence

John O'Brien May 15, 2012, 10:35am


NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - A non-profit organization that cares for thoroughbred race horses is fighting New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's attempt to replace the members of its board.

On May 3, Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against the directors of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, claiming they drove the organization into insolvency and failed to provide funding necessary to care for 1,100 horses.

The TRF filed its motion to dismiss Monday.

"By this unprecedented action, (Schneiderman) inexplicably seeks to replace the directors and officers of the TRF, one of the most respected and effective non-profit organizations in America," the motion says.

"There has never been a case in which directors and officers of a charitable foundation have been removed absent either misappropriation of charitable funds or self-dealing."

The TRF says Schneiderman's case does not approach the legal standard required to hold the defendants liable.

"Rather, this lawsuit is a shocking case of misguided regulators knowingly and intentionally making false allegations that would constitute actionable libel if the allegations were not contained in a complaint," the motion says.

Schneiderman alleged that TRF had taken too many horses into its herd for years and could not afford their care. The directors of TRF allegedly failed to heed multiple warnings, including from its own officers, that the non-profit would not be able to properly sustain the number of horses it took on.

The organization allegedly provided funding for its horses that was well below industry standards for years, paying its boarding farms no more than $3 per horse per day to provide basic care and food to the horses.

Schneiderman says horses at multiple TRF farms allegedly suffered serious neglect, including not receiving treatments for open wounds and injuries, lack of adequate feed, lack of basic veterinary care and being left exposed to the elements without shelter during severe weather.

The TRF says none of that is true, and Schneiderman has ignored evidence. The TRF provided:

-Affidavits from veterinarians and farm managers attesting to the proper care of "virtually every horse;"

-Written opinions attesting to the propriety of every financial transaction Schneiderman mentions in his complaint; and

-Endorsements of the TRF's leadership by the Jockey Club, the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen and Trainers Association, the New York Thoroughbred Breeders and the New York Racing Association.

"Rather than heed the overwhelming evidence of the excellent stewardship provided by the TRF leadership, (Schneiderman) has chosen to wage an unconscionable and unreasonable campaign of vilification against the TRF," the motion says.

"The TRF succeeds every day in its mission to care for retired thoroughbreds. There is no basis for this lawsuit and it should be dismissed."

The defendants are John Moore, Robert Hinkle, Michael Lakow, Diana Pikulski, Hayward Pressman, Leslie Priggen, John Rainey and Margaret Santulli.

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