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Wells Fargo is accused of animal neglect following foreclosure of Rhode Island farm animal sanctuary

Allegations of animal neglect against an unlikely culprit -- Wells Fargo -- prompted a Rhode Island man to take the bank to court today. Wells Fargo recently foreclosed on Bonniedale Farm, a sanctuary that houses more than 130 rescued farm animals; Dan MacKenzie, the sanctuary's former owner, argued in court that the bank had failed to provide proper care for the animals that remained after he was evicted.

Although friends and animal lovers offered donations in the hopes of saving Bonniedale from foreclosure, the effort was too little, too late. MacKenzie on Monday was ordered off the premises, where he's cared for rescued animals including pigs, horses and turkeys for eight years. (According to MacKenzie, the foreclosure itself stems from a simple mistake -- he didn't know his mortgage had been sold and continued to pay the bank that originally held it.)  And since the order to leave was unexpected -- MacKenzie said he was given only 10 minutes to vacate the farm -- he had no time to provide for the animals' interim care.

Had he known the eviction was coming, he told the Providence Journal, he "would have tried to place the animals somewhere safe.... Apparently they're not animal people at all."

With MacKenzie gone, who would care for the animals?  His attorney, Guy Settipane, told the Journal that the bank claimed the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would step in to look after them. But RISPCA President Dr. Ernest Finocchio contradicted this, saying Wells Fargo had declined his organization's offer of help. 

Finocchio visited Bonniedale on Tuesday and said he found horses and pigs with no water and observed strangers walking around the property.  Worse still, farm animals -- including llamas, pot-bellied pigs and birds -- are missing. It's unclear whether the missing animals were taken from the property by well-meaning temporary caregivers or by thieves. 

Either way, MacKenzie is understandably concerned for the welfare of the creatures, many of whom were rescued from abusive or neglectful owners and have nowhere else to go. 

An agreement reached in court today offers a temporary -- very temporary -- solution: Finocchio will care for and inspect the animals over the next 24 hours, after which he'll make a recommendation to the judge about the best way to care for them going forward. According to the Journal, students from the University of Rhode Island's agricultural program will also provide some care.

Settipane says MacKenzie hopes to find new adoptive homes for all the animals.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: WPRI via YouTube

 
Comments () | Archives (9)

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Thank you for posting this in th LA Times. I live in RI but I am originally from LA. I have been going to the farm all year and have enjoyed the animals and the owner Dan's good nature. Dan was not notified by his first mortgage holder (Option One) that his loan had been sold. For a year he made his payments on time, he has proof of all the payments made to the wrong bank. He was not notified when his mortgage was sold to Wells Fargo. You can’t blame him, he has tried everything to try and help those animals. Every time I visit he is working on the farm with no vacation and hardly any rest. Right now, he doesn’t care about losing his home; he only cares about the animals.

TO ANYONE WHO VIEWS THIS ARTICLE:
PLEASE HELP THE ANIMALS!!

His ownership of this property should be reinstated since he was not informed that his mortgage had been sold to another bank. This is the banks' fault. They should pay him damages and pay for any vet care the animals require. What is this country coming to? These banks have declared war on the American people -- and apparently on American animals as well. Disgusting!

Thanks to all who have stated their support of the animals. We deeply appreciate the feedback and praise the community for the way it has rallied help for these animals. And while Wells Fargo is not the owner, mortgage servicer, or mortgage originator of the Bonniedale Farms property (rather a trustee for a trust that includes the property’s mortgage), and as such was not involved in initiating this foreclosure, we echo many of your thoughts about ensuring the safety of these animals. As was covered by many media outlets last night and this morning, Wells Fargo is currently working to make sure the animals at the farm are properly cared for.

I would NOT believe for one single minute the self-serving pablum mealymouthed form excuse pseudo-apology provided by Wells Fargo in these comments - not doubt formulated by that bank's in-house shyster who probably went after this property personally - signing all of the foreclosure papers or authorizing another shyster to do same. This is the sort of thing happening all over the country and it is because banks are no longer seriously regulated. What regulations there are have been perverted, subverted and generally ignored. Between the banks and insurance companies as a populace we have been turned into virtual bond slaves. Think about the level of control these institutions have and look at how they treat real people, real problems and real life. Their executives' obscene salaries and benefits protect them well from not only real life but also having to take some moral responsibility for what they have done to this country.

I don't understand how he could be thrown off his property if he'd been making payments. It sounds very suspicious. The banks must be up to something really sinister for them to not simply get the money from the one bank to the other. And why was the wrong bank continuing to take his money without notifying him of the change. This is so strange. It is extremely disturbing on several levels.

Wells Fargo administrators are not even "people" people. They have unofficially redlined home and business loans in California, never notify cosigners on loans so that W--- F------ can collect more interest, and specifically target Spanish language advertisements at people that cannot afford the loans and services offered. The salespeople (they are not loan officers: they are payed on commission) just sign these folk up, send the documents in English, and then take the car/home away from them even when they make the payments. This story is business as usual for them in California. Just check.

Very disturbing story and forclosure. I wish someone would find and list ALL the ANIMAL RESCUE/SANCTUARY foreclosures in this country in the last 2 years. I'm sure it'd resemble some sort of horror flick. I may just do it myself!

Aside from the fact that this sounds just simply idiotic - no notification, wrong payments taken, etc. - how can this owner be given 10 MINUTES to vacate a property? What would have happened had they given him, oh, say, 10 HOURS? Would they lose even more $$$?

Completely sad story.

One of my younger brothers, a lawyer, is a VP in Trusts at Wells Fargo of all things; he's a huge animal lover and i'm sending this story to him tonight. If Wells Fargo claims this is a Trust & Estate issue, then he'll be able to follw the trail hopefully and maybe get some action.

I have made multitudes of copies of this article and I am going out today to tape these copies on all public bulletin boards, inside coffee shops, on all ATM machines, and on the doors of the local Wells Fargo bank in my little town--anybody want to join me by doing the same in their towns/cities?


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