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Does a Horse Rescue Adoption Give You Ownership?

Animal rescue organizations sometimes face the question of whether the “adoptee” of a rescued animal holds title to that animal and can use it for any purpose, even re-sell it.  An equine rescue in New York litigated the issue of title in Cohen v. Rostron.1

In this case, the plaintiff received a horse from Project Sage Horse Rescue, a non-profit equine rescue in New York, pursuant to a written adoption agreement.  The agreement gave the plaintiff possession of the horse as its “caregiver,” but the contract prevented the plaintiff from thereafter selling, assigning, transferring, or leasing the horse.  The agreement also required the plaintiff to locate the horse at a facility that was specifically acceptable to Project Sage.  Despite the agreement, however, the plaintiff moved the horse to a facility that the rescue did not approve.  The rescue thereafter reclaimed possession.  The plaintiff sued the rescue for injunctive relief, claiming that the adoption agreement gave her legal title to the horse.  The court disagreed.  It denied her petition on the basis that she failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits in her case.  The court found that the adoption agreement did not appear to confer title.  Rather, the agreement stated that Project Sage agreed to place the horse with plaintiff as “caregiver” for “the purpose of providing a safe, healthy, and loving environment” and was entitled to repossess the horse without notice, at its discretion, if it believed that the caregiver failed to comply with the agreement’s terms and conditions.

Equine rescues, often cash-poor and short of staff, often cut corners with their contracts and fail to give them the attention they deserve.  Attention to detail in a contract and compliance with the law, however, can make the difference between success or failure in a legal dispute.


1 No. 15036/11, 2012 N.Y. Slip op. 30081 (1/5/2012)(withdrawn from publication).

Categories: Contracts, Sales/Disputes

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is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. She has successfully tried equine cases before juries in four states. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, four books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.

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Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Second National Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

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Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has received these prestigious equine industry awards from respected equine organizations:

"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee

"Distinguished Service Award" - American Youth Horse Council

"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership

"Catalyst Award"- Michigan Horse Council

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"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association 

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Drafting and negotiating contracts for boarding, training, sales, waivers/releases, leases, and numerous other equine-related transactions.

Representing and advising insurers on  coverage and policy language as well as litigation;

Advising equine industry clubs and associations regarding management, rules, bylaws, disputes, and regulations.

Representing some of the equine industry's top trainers, competitors, stables, and associations.

Counseling industry professionals, stable managers, and individual horse owners. 

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