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Frank Gray

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Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
In a barn on Goshen Road, Shadarobah Horse Rescue has been caring for neglected horses for the past six years. But the operation is about to be evicted from the 5-acre site in a disagreement over the property.

Horse rescue facing eviction

Volunteer Carol Israel feeds Babydoll, an 8-year-old paint housed at the rescue. Shadarobah’s founder and the owner of the property are at odds.

For nearly six years now, volunteers at Shadarobah Horse Rescue on Goshen Road have been taking in neglected horses, rehabilitating them and then adopting them out, sparing many of the animals from trips to slaughterhouses.

In that time, about 200 horses have been cared for at the 5-acre site with a big barn, and about 170 have found new homes.

But as of Friday morning, there’s a good chance the remaining 41 horses and a couple of other animals will find themselves facing eviction.

Michelle Heitz, who started Shadarobah, said the organization had been renting the land and entered into a pact in December with the owner of the land to buy that 5 acres and some neighboring land, about 27 acres in all. They would have 45 days to seal the deal.

Heitz said a donor was willing to buy the property for her. Heitz believed the price was largely settled, but the owner asked for more than she expected, and more than the donor was willing to pay, she said.

The horse rescue’s future looked grim.

However, the owner of the land, Darryl Agler, said he sold the land to Heitz and her husband on contract in 2008, and the sale called for a balloon payment about two years later. Agler, though, said Heitz didn’t adhere to the agreement.

Agler, through his attorney, said to protect his interests, he filed a complaint against the Heitzes, and a repossession hearing was set for Dec. 23. The statement said the Heitzes agreed that Agler would take possession of the property Feb. 5. But the property hadn’t been vacated by then, so Agler contacted the sheriff to conduct the repossession, which will be Friday, the statement said.

Suffice it to say, it’s a mess with horses caught in the middle.

For several days now, volunteers have been trying to line up temporary foster homes for the animals still at the site, Heitz said. She said she doesn’t know how many homes have been found.

A few days ago, Heitz put up a plea on Shadarobah’s Facebook page, asking for donations and saying that if each of the 1,000 people who looked at the page donated $10, they’d have enough money to move the horses at least.

The rescue – and almost all rescues operate on a shoestring – is desperate for money, Heitz says. Even if foster homes are found for all the animals, it costs money to move the horses. In the meantime, the horses have to be cared for and fed.

“Yes, I’m frantic,” Heitz said. “But I can’t afford to panic. The show has to go on daily. I’ve got a lot riding on my shoulders, but if I fall apart, I’m afraid all the troops are going to fall.”

“Even if we have to leave first thing Friday morning, we have to continue to care for the horses.”

Agler, in his lawyer’s statement, says he intends to allow for the orderly transfer of the animals to any farm the horse rescue may acquire. The statement added that he has recruited horse lovers to care for the animals while they remain on the property.

Meanwhile, maybe horse lovers out there will step forward and kick in a few dollars each. Heitz says 15,000 people have now viewed Shadarobah’s Facebook page. That many people can contribute a lot of money in a hurry.

The organization has a link to www.gofundme.com on its Facebook page, and people can go to the organization’s website, www.shadarobah.org, and make donations through PayPal.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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