The evicted owner of Glocester's Bonniedale Farms in Glocester, R.I. asked a judge this morning to issue a restraining order to require the lender that foreclosed on him, Wells Fargo, to provide food, water and care for the animals left behind.
Guy Settipane, the lawyer for owner Dan MacKenzie, said his client became concerned Tuesday when he went to the site and saw "total strangers walking off with his animals," including a turkey named Tommy Boy.
"You're left with a farm, 136 animals but no farmer," Settipane told the Providence Journal.
Bonniedale Farms is no typical farm. It's a home for goats, sheep, cats, dogs, horses, miniature horses, pigs, llamas, turkeys, hens and other animals that are sometimes just hours from being destroyed. Some have been cruelly abused.
For nine months or more, MacKenzie tried to raise the funds necessary to stave off foreclosure, including putting out a sign out by the farm's entrance on Snake Hill Road asking for donations. Fund raising was difficult and the money coming in wasn't enough to covering the mortgage, let alone the cost of 20 different kinds of feed.
MacKenzie is requesting a temporary restraining order because the animals are being left unfed, unwatered and uncared for. He said that if he had known when he'd be evicted, he would have taken steps to protect the animals. Lawyers representing both MacKenzie and Wells Fargo Bank, which evicted MacKenzie Monday, met in a private conference with Judge Jeffrey A. Lanphear on Wednesday. After nearly an hour in a Superior Court judge's chambers, lawyers for both sides hammered out an agreement allowing Dr. Ernest Finocchio, president of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to examine the animals and determine the care they need.
Lawyers for Wells Fargo, which now owns the farm, and former owner Dan MacKenzie have agreed to abide by whatever Finocchio determines the animals need in the next 24 hours, lawyers for both sides said in open court after meeting with the judge.
Finocchio earlier confirmed some of MacKenzie's fears, saying that the bank said it didn't want the organization's help. When he visited the site Tuesday, he said that at least some of the animals — eight horses and two 800-pound pigs — had not been given any water even though he had been told that they had.
The buckets next to each stall were still empty in mid-afternoon yesterday, and little pointers he had placed on the doors to show whether the stalls were opened were found to be undisturbed, he said. But the clearest sign that the horses had not been watered was when he took a five-gallon bucket and placed it in front of each horse.
"I would have tried to place the animals somewhere safe," MacKenzie said. "Apparently they're not animal people at all."
The ASPCA estimates 500,000 to one million cats, dogs and other animals are at risk of becoming homeless this year by foreclosures. Only in California, where new laws took effect this year, are lenders required to notify animal control agencies immediately upon finding an animal in a foreclosed home. Some California cities have also passed ordinances requiring lenders to conduct weekly inspections and post contact information so neighbors can report complaints. As a result, the properties are inspected shortly after being vacated and abandoned animals have a chance to be rescued.
From Real Estate Economy Watch