Woman accuses UMass of negligence in death of horse

Staff Writer
Published: 9/25/2022 8:02:59 PM

AMHERST — A Williamsburg woman whose horse fell ill while being kept at a University of Massachusetts stable in spring 2019, and had to be put down, is seeking unspecified damages against the university in a lawsuit alleging negligence in the animal’s care.

Filed last week in Hampshire Superior Court by attorney Brody Hale of Lee on behalf of Anne Wiktor of Stage Road, the lawsuit cites actions by UMass employees that led to the Morgan horse coming down with colic after apparently consuming mold-infested hay.

According to the lawsuit, Wiktor bought the horse, named Baystate Fredrico but known as Rico, from the university in January 2019 and then boarded it at a cost of $300 per month at the Stockbridge Stables at the Hadley Farm at 11 North Maple St. in Hadley. Wiktor intended to bring Rico to her home on July 1, 2019.

But less than a month before the horse was to join her in Williamsburg, Rico experienced medical distress on June 9, 2019, and was brought to the Tufts University Large Animal Hospital in Grafton. There, a decision was made in consultation with staff to euthanize the animal when it was determined his condition wouldn’t improve. An autopsy later revealed the colic.

UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said the university has no comment on the lawsuit.

“We are aware of the matter, but have no comment at this time because it is pending litigation,” Blaguszewski said.

The lawsuit goes on to state that Wiktor learned that same morning that Rico’s source of feed was changed from usual square bales of hay to round bales of hay when Stockbridge Stables workers discovered they had run out of the square bales.

Even with this change in diet, a student employee was instructed by the farm manager to feed Rico the round bales, which were less likely to be dry.

“Plaintiff later discovered that in fact a supply of square bales of hay remained several hundred feet from Rico’s place of boarding. Plaintiff also would have brought hay to Rico from her own personal supply had she been notified that the defendants had exhausted their supply of square bales of hay.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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