IMO, the BO's side of the story is irrelevant -- padlocking horses into stalls shows a serious lack of judgement. There is no amount of money owing that justifies endangering animals or people. If your bills are paid up it doesn't seem likely that your horses are in imminent danger but I would be looking for a new home. Good luck!
ETA: I just re-read the posts where you added a few more details -- looks like you've made the right decision .
Money aside, which is how the barn survives, I am sure there are other ways to 'hold' a horse with a tardy board bill.
I think padlocking a stall is so dangerous, and makes the hair stand up on my neck! As mentioned above, what would have happened if the horse hung a leg, got cast, colic.... Whatever!!..... That to me is crazy dangerous.
If you can't get the BO to stop this practice for a late bill, I'd be high tailing it the heck outta there!
Lots of places will padlock a stall if someone is behind on board and threatening (either literally or figuratively) to leave without paying. Once the horse leaves, the BO loses all their leverage. I get that, and don't have a problem with it as long as it is applied judiciously. If you are worried about your horse dying in a fire/earthquake/invasion of locusts because he's padlocked in his stall, then pay your bills. Pretty simple.
I think doing it over a couple hundred that has been in dispute for two weeks is dumb (and probably illegal) - both parties need to learn to be grown-ups if the situation is as presented. But when someone owes thousands and BO is looking at a blood-from-turnip situation and a boarder about to jump ship to another barn unlucky enough not to know boarder's MO, well... You do it for a short period of time (long enough to get the legal paperwork done, which is not long in most places), keep a key on-site so that a quick call to the BO can get someone in if horse has a medical emergency, you make sure someone with the key is there to feed/water/muck/etc, and you realize that barn fires, horrific though they may be, are actually not so very common. Deadbeat boarders happen with much, MUCH greater frequency, and can also put a BO right out of business.
I can think of at least three barns I know of, in different parts of the country, who have locked in a horse while putting through the legal paperwork for a stableman's lien - all cases of multiple months' arrears. Like I said, I don't support the idea for a small amount of money or short overdue period - risk vs reward - but I do like the idea that BOs get to make money and have a way to recover funds owed them, or else pretty quickly there won't be anywhere left to board horses.
But then, even when money is short, my board and my rent are the two non-negotiable, on time, in full payments every month. Others feel differently about that.
Padlocking horses is just not acceptable, it is bat pooh crazy, and since Mr. Stolen is in the fire dept. any BO who would do that would likely be held for criminal charges if there was a fire and if a fire fighter was injured or killed attempting to free a horse, the charges could be life in prison. Really, "lot's of places" place themselves in this potential situation ?
I would certainly move, and yes I left a place last spring where the barn manager was bat pooh crazy and yet no where near as crazy as this barn owner.
So if the barn has to lock a horse in the stall while it waits for the stableman's lein paperwork to be filed wouldn't that be illegal?
And if a barn assumes that someone is going to skip on board but hasn't yet wouldn't that also be illegal and unsafe?
I was at a barn that pulled this and they could not prevent the owner from taking her horse according to the police that showed up, it was an issue they had to address in court.
Any barn that locks a horse in a stall is in serious danger of being arrested for theft as long as the horse does not legally belong to them. Not to mention the danger involved in locking a horse in a stall.
Sorry, it's NEVER OK to risk the horses over money.
Even for that supposed short time to go through proper channels for a lean.
I TOTALLY understand how sucky it must be to be a decent BO, and have boarders screw you. But.....HORSES ALWAYS COME FIRST. They are the helpless in these scenarios.
OK, so how does a BO prevent a boarder who owes money from taking the horse, WITHOUT locking the horse up?
Some ideas ( hope other people can add more)
1: security measures. Cameras and perimeter alarms are not expensive. Perimeter alarms would alert BO to any after hours entry. (A good idea, IMO, for every facility to have)
2: Lock all point of entry gates. In an emergency, FD WIIL bust right through a gate, but SuzieSmuggleMyHorseOutWithoutPaying is unlikely to damage their vehicle by gate crashing. Use good chain, and good locks, AND chain around posts, so gates can't simply be lifted off hinges. PITA, but....
3: Move and lock up non paying boarders trailer. Block it so they can't access it.
4: put the horse in a different stall. Buys you time to call PD while they are looking for their horse.
5: lock up their tack. Take it into your house if you have to
PLEASE, don't ever risk locking the horse in a stall. Really, that's nuts. Not right to risk the horse for money. And if you, BO, let a bill get more than one month overdue, than you have dropped the ball. Contracts are written for a reason. Stick to them.
No, I have NEVER stuck a BO. I HAVE worked at barns where boarders did, but thankfully never worked for anyone awful enough to take it out on the horse.
If making money boarding is ever more important than the horses, you are really in the wrong business
Meh, I'm not on the "I don't care what the HO did, you don't lock a horse in a stall" types.
I'm with you-- no one should jeopardize an animal's safety that way. But tell that to the HO who didn't pay! Tell that to the HO (or set of 'em) first, I might add. I don't think BOs actually want to lock up horses. After all, that makes their day-to-day care of the beast that much more of a PITA. But they do want to be paid and WTF do they do after their collateral is gone?
I haven't ever seen this done in person, but I don't tend to be around HOs or BOs where the basic rules like paying for your horse's board are broken this badly.
Clarification, because I phrased that badly: when I say "waiting for the paperwork" I don't mean "waiting to file the lien" - I mean the period between when the paperwork is safely filed and when the horse officially belongs to BO. There is usually a period after the papers go in while the HO is officially notified and has x number of days to pay up before the horse becomes the BO's (generally through "public auction"). During that time the HO is not legally allowed to remove the horse (unless s/he pays the arrears) but neither does the horse actually belong to the BO. If the horse is moved during that time, sure, the BO can sue for the money (and win), but good luck collecting it...
Any barn owner or manager that puts themselves in a position to go to jail and answer to the potential of criminal charges is bat pooh crazy in my book. I don't work in the horse world and have had crazy clients, it is part of business. We cut our losses without risking jail time, I would expect the people I deal with in the horse world to do the same.
I can imagine that being a BO is not the easiest job in the world, and dealing with deadbeats is a complete drag. But a BO that a) lets one boarder accrue thousands in back board while other boarders are paying their bills on time, and b) tries to recover that lost income by putting a horse (and other people) in danger is not running a business that I would want to patronize.
If a horse is padlocked in a stall for any reason bolt cutters should be very close at hand. Even then there may not be enough time to cut the lock in case of fire.
Barn fires as a rule are out of control very quickly, visibility is poor, and when you can get in , time is of the essence.
Agree, padlocking a horse in its stall is absolutely unacceptable. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the stall had a big attached paddock where the horse had room to get away if there was a fire. Still not really acceptable, though, because what if the horse needed to go to the horsepital or something?
Now, I HAVE seen a BO change the padlock on the tackroom and give the combination to all the boarders except the person who owed a lot of money. That way, if the person left with her horses, she couldn't take any of her tack and the BO could either hold the tack "hostage" until the bill was paid or sell the tack to make back some money. And she could not ride and enjoy the facilities since she had not paid. That, I think, is pretty fair. The horses were not put in any danger but the BO was still protecting his back.