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Article published March 26, 2014
Lawsuit over horse seizures settled for $105,000
The lawsuit between a Cabot-based horse rescue organization owner and five county horse owners who sued her for improperly taking their horses was settled for $105,000. While documents from the state attorney general’s office list the settlement amount, they do not disclose how the funds will be divided among plaintiffs Brian Arendosh, Geraldine Geibel, Debra Gaus, Jessica Gossett and Elan Welter-Lewis. The group sued Pamela Vivirito, Equine Angels Rescue, state trooper Shawn E. King, and veterinarian Brian Burks and his employer, Fox Equine Center, for taking horses between March 21 and May 26, 2013, that they claimed were abused or neglected. The settlement includes provisions for the plaintiffs to retrieve all of their horses, and allows state officials to inspect the farms of all five plaintiffs for six months from the December settlement to ensure the horses are being properly cared for. The document also states that the settlement is not an “admission of liability” by the defendants. Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger this past summer dropped all charges of abuse against some of the plaintiffs brought by Vivirito and a state trooper. Because of the sharp increase in horse abuse and neglect cases at that time, Goldinger decided to form a committee to create a protocol regarding how to handle such matters. Goldinger said that he did just that, and the committee will have its fourth and final meeting today. He hopes to distribute a formal protocol regarding the investigation of allegedly neglected or abused horses to police departments in the county in a week. “I’d like to get it out soon,” Goldinger said. In the protocol, Goldinger said seizing an animal only would be used as a last resort after the horse owner has failed to rectify the problem by following guidelines offered and followed up on by police. “We realize you don’t want to take somebody’s animal if we don’t have to,” Goldinger said.