We have an update in the case of Cookie and Misty (Ruby Ranch Horse Rescue v. Dawn Barden). The tentative settlement contemplated a year ago was never finalized (the parties could not agree to terms and communication became non-existent) and the case is moving forward. Dawn Barden has started a fundraiser with statements RRHR believes are misleading and defamatory. Below is a press release regarding the matter to set the record straight.
We have recently hired Juliet Piccone of Colorado Animal Attorneys who will be prosecuting our case now. Anyone interested in donating to help with expenses incurred in this case can click on Donations to make a tax-deductible donation.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 18, 2016 BLACK FOREST, CO
Ruby Ranch Horse Rescue is a Colorado non-profit corporation founded for the purpose of rescuing abused, neglected and unwanted horses and finding suitable adoptive families for the horses. RRHR has the following response to adopter Dawn Barden’s recent public statements about Ruby Ranch Horse Rescue, Inc. v. Dawn Barden, El Paso County Court Case No. 2015C35005.
In 2013 Dawn Barden requested to adopt two mini mares from RRHR. In consideration for her promises to provide a certain standard of their care for the rest of their lives, and the right of return to RRHR upon breach of any condition, RRHR adopted Misty and Cookie to Dawn Barden pursuant to the terms and conditions of a signed contract. Ownership was not transferred at that time and remained with RRHR. After roughly eight months, a visit was made by a board member of Ruby Ranch to check on the conditions of the mini horses, and, finding them to be in acceptable condition and circumstances, consented to Dawn Barden having a Brand Inspection of the horses. The board member signed the inspection card, but ownership was not transferred from RRHR pursuant to state law.
On 11/9/2014 a trainer who sometimes worked as an independent contractor of Ruby Ranch had the occasion to examine Cookie and Misty, found them to be underweight, and contacted Ruby Ranch to share her concerns. Ruby Ranch immediately contacted Dawn Barden to discuss Cookie and Misty. Dawn Barden followed up with a lengthy email that concluded with the sentences “We would really like to learn through this process and be able to keep them here with us, but I understand that if you feel they need to go to your place for better care you will take them. See you at 2 p.m.” The following day representatives of Ruby Ranch arrived at the Barden Residence to pick up Cookie and Misty. They were loaded into the Ruby Ranch trailer with the assistance of Dawn Barden and returned to the Ruby Ranch facility.
Ruby Ranch assessed the animals’ weight using a weight tape and determined that the horses were 25% and 30% under the ideal weight specified by its veterinarian for each horse. Cookie and Misty were immediately put on a re-feeding program and regained a healthy weight within 2-3 months. During these months Ruby Ranch received one phone call roughly two days after their return to RRHR from a member of the Barden family inquiring about the minis. There was no other indication from the Barden family to Ruby Ranch that they had any further interest in or concern for Cookie and Misty’s well-being or future arrangements.
On 12/1/14, the Ruby Ranch Board of Directors wrote to Ms. Barden and requested that she supply Ruby Ranch with copies of all records relating to Cookie and Misty as well as the Brand Inspections. Barden did not respond. On 2/5/15, Barden contacted the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and reported that Ruby Ranch had “stolen” the mini horses and filed a theft report. After some discussion with various interested parties, the Sheriff’s Office stated that the issue was a civil matter. Upon advice of counsel, RRHR returned the mini horses to Barden under protest. The deputies advised that any further dispute in the matter should be taken to civil court. Although RRHR was disappointed that they would have to go to such great lengths both financially and logistically to enforce a contract freely signed by Barden, the subject lawsuit was subsequently filed. Since picking up Cookie and Misty on November 10, 2014, no member of RRHR has contacted any member of the Barden family or approached her property, or encouraged anyone else to do so, and has endeavored to avoid any engagement with the many provocative statements made by Barden on social media. The aim of RRHR has never been to defame or humiliate Ms. Barden or her family, only to ensure a healthy future for Cookie and Misty.
In August of 2015, a portion of the trial proceeded and then the two parties were ordered into conference, where a rough outline of a settlement agreement was negotiated. The two parties we ordered to sort out the language and details of the agreement within 30 days. The agreement process dragged out and the parties were unable to come to terms and the case was in limbo.
In June of 2016, Ruby Ranch hired new counsel, Juliet Piccone of Colorado Animal Attorneys, and began considering options for resolution of the case in a way that would be satisfactory to the mission of Ruby Ranch; that is to ensure that any horse it takes in has minimum standard of care as to ensure the horse has a quality of life free from hunger, neglect or mistreatment. Both Barden’s attorney and RRHR’s former attorney were allowed to withdraw from the case. On August 17th the two parties appeared before Judge Sletta in El Paso County Court for a status conference and were ordered, again, into mediation, which has yet to be scheduled. In the event an agreement cannot be reached, the case will proceed. Ruby Ranch continues to be concerned for the long-term well-being of these horses and is committed to doing whatever it can to ensure their quality of life.