Vet Week: A Veterinarian's Advice Part I

Welcome to the newest feature on Ribbons and Red Tape, where a different aspect of the equine world will be given an entire week to be discussed from a legal perspective.  
This week I am excited to introduce Dr. Camille Knopf, a veterinarian in Northern California.  Dr. Knopf graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and runs her private practice, Silverado Equine.  Dr. Knopf has a diverse practice with an emphasis in health of the whole horse, including the provision of an advanced acupuncture technique to help horses feel their best.  Most of all, I'm excited to introduce Dr. Knopf because she is my sister!  Please enjoy her insight into the intersection of the veterinary and legal world in today and tomorrow's posts.

Without further ado, please welcome Dr. Knopf to Ribbons and Red Tape:


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Hello blog readers! I am thrilled to share with you some of my experiences as an equine veterinarian.  When you choose to have a life filled with horses, it can bring you so much passion, joy and entertainment. Sadly, I often see well-intentioned clients not experience this “happily ever after” after purchasing a horse, simply due to lack of information. Below is a story of one of my clients, a story that I witness on a regular basis. Learn from Mrs. Merriweather* and don’t let this scenario happen to you…

Mrs. Merriweather and her daughter love horses and love to ride. One day Mrs. Merriweather was talking about her love of horses with a friend at work. This co-worker, Mrs. A, mentioned that she actually had a wonderful horse for sale that may be the perfect fit for Mrs. Merriweather's daughter. Mrs. A said she was only selling him because her daughter was going off to college. Mrs. Merriweather and her daughter drove into the foothills that weekend to take a look at “Rubio.” Rubio was a beautiful horse, a dappled grey gelding with a gentle personality. Mrs. A gave a glowing review of the horse: he used to train at a renowned show barn, he had never had any health issues, and she was willing to sell him at a very reasonable price because they had no need for him at the time. Mrs. Merriweather’s daughter rode the horse in the owner’s arena and fell in love. Mrs. Merriweather felt comfortable purchasing the horse because she was friends with Mrs. A, her daughter enjoyed riding the horse, and he was selling for a reasonable price for a horse with his training history. She wrote the check and arranged for the horse to be shipped to their local barn.

Upon arrival of the new horse, Mrs. Merriweather promptly calls me, her equine veterinarian, as she wants to be conscientious in the care of her new horse. She requests an examination and for me to perform any necessary preventative care. Upon examination I quickly observed that the horse was lame in both front limbs. The lameness was very subtle on soft ground in the arena but became severe once the horse was moving on firm ground. There was no evidence of acute injury and it was clear that it was likely this horse was suffering from a chronic condition. Mrs. Merriweather and her daughter were devastated to hear the results of the exam but agreed with my advice that they should return the horse to Mrs. A, if possible, rather than spend a potentially large sum of money in diagnostics and treatments all without the guarantee of a sound horse in the end.

Mrs. Merriweather contacted her friend Mrs. A and was surprised to learn that Mrs. A was unwilling to take back Rubio. Mrs. A claimed that Rubio had never had any health problems; he was in perfect condition upon leaving her farm and had no obligation to refund any money or take the horse back.

Mrs. Merriweather’s disappointment turned to frustration and anger as she realized that she had spent thousands of dollars on a horse with significant health issues that would be costly to address.  She wanted to know if she would have any legal recourse against Mrs. A.

Sadly, Mrs. Merriweather had me examine the horse AFTER purchase. She also purchased the horse without any legal contract. She had felt secure in making the transaction because she knew the owner personally and had the horse examined by me immediately upon arrival at the barn. Unfortunately Mrs. Merriweather had placed herself in a situation where pursuing legal action would be expensive and time consuming.

Dear readers, this situation is very common in my veterinary practice. Too often, horses are purchased on the basis of good faith and trust. While it is imperative that a PRE-purchase veterinary examination should always be performed, regardless of circumstances, I have further recommendations as to potential “red flags” in the sale of a horse.....


A day at the office!

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Quite the story, thank you for sharing it with us!
 The buyer lost her purchase price, lost a suitable horse for her daughter, and lost a friend in this transaction.
While of course there is almost always a way to initiate legal action, Dr. Knopf was correct in pointing out that (especially) because there wasn't a contract dictating what the parties should do in this circumstance, legal action to repair the damage done would cost the Merriweathers greatly in time and money, much more than if they had taken preventative legal measures.

Check back in tomorrow for Dr. Knopf's veterinary red flags and recommendations when purchasing a horse (and to consider including in a contract!)


*All names changed to protect the confidentiality of the parties involved