State announces actions against horse rescue charities

Owner accused of misappropriating funds and failing to register.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Feb 23, 2014

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced a lawsuit against a Cambridge-based horse rescue charity, Frog Pond Farm, Inc., and its owner for misappropriating funds and failing to register with the state.

DeWine also announced a settlement with a Tipp City horse rescue, Serenity Horse Rescue, which has agreed to dissolve.

“Running a horse rescue facility requires a lot of work, and those who operate charitable organizations must be able to fulfill their legal responsibilities,” DeWine said. “We simply cannot allow those who run charities to use the charity’s bank account as their own personal bank account or to fail in their duties to properly run the organization.”

According to the Attorney General’s lawsuit, Frog Pond Farm was incorporated in March 2004. As a horse rescue, it buys or otherwise rescues horses from slaughter situations, takes care of them, and facilitates adoption. The organization solicited money from the public by saying that donations would be used to rescue horses. 

The Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section discovered that Frog Pond Farm’s owner, Lisa Gordon, of Cambridge, used the organization’s bank account as if it were her own and misappropriated nearly $50,000 between 2011 and 2013. She also failed to register with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office from 2004 to 2012.

Filed in the Guernsey County Court of Common Pleas, the Attorney General’s 17-count lawsuit alleges violations of the Ohio Charitable Organizations Act, the Ohio Charitable Trust Act, and common law. Counts include breaching fiduciary duties, fraud, conversion, unjust enrichment, and reformation of charitable trust. The lawsuit seeks to recover the money that was used for personal purposes and to distribute the charity’s assets to another charity with a similar purpose.

In another case, Shula Woodworth, who operated Serenity Horse Rescue, agreed to dissolve her organization and redistribute its assets after the Attorney General found that the organization was not managed properly. According to the agreement — an Assurance of Discontinuance filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas — all the organization’s assets, including a $6,430 payment, will be redistributed to other horse rescue organizations.

To check whether a charitable organization is in compliance with its registration obligations or whether a professional solicitor is properly registered, call the Ohio Attorney General's Office at (800) 282-0515 or visit www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov. Those who encounter suspicious activities involving charities or charitable solicitations should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office to file a complaint.