AUBURN — The fate of Knotty, a retired race horse, appears to rest in the hands of an Androscoggin County Superior Court judge.
A hearing is scheduled Wednesday on a motion for a permanent injunction against Knotty's owner, Lisa Bosse of Lisbon Falls, from taking any action aimed at euthanizing the animal.
Knotty's former owners, Jayne and Daniel Buck Soules of Lisbon Falls, on Thursday secured a temporary injunction from Justice MaryGay Kennedy.
Bosse said through her attorney, David Van Dyke, she intends to have Knotty put down because he is terminally ill. She has had the horse tested by two veterinarians who confirmed the diagnosis, Van Dyke said Friday.
“It is unfortunate that people who blithely gave away the horse and refused to care for it, now that it's terminal, are cruelly extending its life,” Van Dyke said.
He said his client is “a fervent lover of horses. She runs a horse farm. She wants to do the humane thing here.”
He said he plans to argue against the injunction and expects to file a counter-claim.
The Souleses said in court papers that 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 and argue that Bosse had not tested the horse for their suspected diagnosis. 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.
In an affidavit sworn by Jayne Soules, she said of Bosse's intent: “We suspect that it may be because she intends to sell the horse meat which would be available after Knotty was put down since there would be a market for it.”
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.
Van Dyke said Bosse has spent nearly $3,000 on Knotty, including feed, farrier and veterinary expenses.
He said Bosse will seek declaratory judgment that Knotty belongs to her and that the Souleses would be unjustly enriched given the thousands of dollars Bosse has spent on Knotty.
Even if the judge were to rule for Bosse on the motion for an injunction, Van Dyke said his client would proceed with her counterclaim “because in America, property rights mean something.”
She intends to go ahead and have the horse euthanized “because that's the only humane thing to do,” he said.
An article that outlined the Souleses' claims appeared in the Sun Journal last month, but didn't include any "contribution, clarification or correction" from Bosse, Van Dyke said.
"It contained a number of inaccurate and malicious statements," he said.
A reporter at the Sun Journal had attempted to reach Bosse at her farm to comment for that story, but she did not return phone calls.