Asked and Answered-- Attorney makes home for neglected horses

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Story and photos by Jo Mathis

Attorney Tricia Terry is not only a partner in the Ann Arbor law firm of Marrs & Terry, she runs the Starry Skies Equine Rescue and Sanctuary in Scio Township, where dozens of ailing horses are brought back to health before carefully placed with new homes.

Terry and her husband, Danny Sauls, also have four children, 8, 9, 10, and 13. And she is the stepmother to two teenagers, 14 and 17.

Over the holidays Terry talked with The Legal News about her busy life.

Let's start with your day job as an attorney. What do you do?

Terry: I oversee all the Chapter 13 bankruptcies here. I started Marrs & Terry back in 1999 with Michelle Marrs, whom I met in law school. I went to Cooley when it was still just in Lansing.

You grew up on the farm in which you now live? Have you ever lived anywhere else?

Yes, my family has about 150 acres. I've lived a couple of different places, but moved back to the farm.

One of the reasons we moved back to the farm three years ago was because I missed having the animals. I grew up with horses. I figured, let's get a rescue horse because I wasn't going to show or anything, so I didn't need a purebred. But I had a really hard time finding a horse rescue that was reputable. So we ended up getting a couple of horses that we adopted from a rescue and that's when I became informed about the horse slaughter industry and that wasn't something I had on my radar or was even aware of.

You have a big family and a big job. What made you take on a big project like horse rescue?

It's one of those things you start out slowly, and it builds and builds and builds. At some point you're outdoors doing chores in the morning and the evening and regardless of how many (horses) you have, you're still out there doing this. Maybe you're out there a little bit longer, but regardless, the commitment is still there.

What's a typical day like for you?

My husband is a stay-at-home dad. We have four children we've adopted from the foster care system. And I have two step-children who don't live with us fulltime. On a typical day, my husband gets up and gets the kids off to school. Then I get up, and my husband go out and do chores. When morning chores are done, I come to work. In the evening, I try to come home to do chores. But if I can't, my husband and children have after-school barn chores they do every day.

How many hours each week do you work as an attorney?

About 60.

So the logical question is: How do you do it?

I go back to work a lot at night. And there are times I've spent the night in the office doing stuff. One of the great things about my particular area of the law, which is a federal bankruptcy attorney, is everything is electronic filing. So I can file cases at 1 p.m. or 1 a.m. It doesn't matter. So that gives me the ability to work any time I want.

Do you have to give up anything to get it all done?

I have a lot of people in my life who've stepped up and helped. And quite frankly, I pay a lot of people. My aunt comes in three days a week to clean my house so my husband can be outside doing more outside stuff. We have a tutor who comes after school to make sure the kids get off the school bus and does their homework. That frees up my husband. My mother lives next door. On the 150 acres, there's my aunt, my mother, and myself.

It's really an old-fashioned farm effort. Everybody pitches in to help each other.

Do you have help caring for the animals?

We have the farm, and then we have the rescue. I have a part-time barn manager who helps with the animals. We just did this privately for the first two years. And then in September, we set up a public nonprofit and got our 501 (c) (3) status for the rescue. Being an attorney in the community, when the prosecutor's office had the recent case where they were figuring out how to seize horses, they happened to contact me. So we took those horses, and were housing them. That spurred a lot of media attention. So now we're getting overwhelmed with going from a private organization to a public nonprofit and getting all those other people involved. So I'm letting go a little of the control to other people.

Any particular memorable moments along the way?

Last night, I had worked late. My husband and kids had taken care of all the chores. Michelle and I went out to dinner just to have an hour and a half to sit and talk about work and business and that kind of stuff. I got home about 10. And my husband likes to go out in the barn at night and smoke a cigar before he goes to bed. That's kind of HIS?? his time. I went out and kind of interrupted him, but the radio was on with Christmas music. It was kind of warm. The barn was softly lit and about 15 horses one by one came in the barn and laid down. And for a horse to lie down, it has to feel safe. And for that many horses to all come in and all lie down, they'd have to not only feel they were in a safe place, but they were in with safe horses. So that was very rewarding.

We have Sovereign, a horse who came in that was really emaciated. We didn't even know if he'd make the trailer ride. And in two months, he's gained a little over 400 pounds. Someone put a Santa horse hat on his halter, so he's running around the barn with this giant Santa hat on.

We just put up the rescue and sanctuary sign and since then, I've heard people say, "I've always wondered what this place was.'' That's really been the nicest thing, is seeing the community coming together and the people who are coming and want to be involved. Even people who don't know anything about horses are coming and saying, "Can I help? Can I do this?" And we always say, "Absolutely.'

How do you decide who can adopt the horses?

We have an adoption application and we check references. All horses go out under a contract with a right of first refusal and limitations on where or how the horse could be transferred. There is also a no breeding clause.

How can people help?

To volunteer, e-mail us at admin@starryskiesequinerescueandsanctuary.com.

People can donate via PayPal by going to our website at http://starryskiesequinerescueandsanctuary.com, or by visiting us on Facebook.

Published: Thu, Jan 5, 2012

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