The trouble all started in 2006 when a toddler was bitten by a horse at Glendale Farm in Milford, Conn. The child’s father Anthony Vendrella Sr., ignored clearly visible signs asking people not to feed or pet the horses and held the child up to feed a horse, who reached through the fence and took out what court documents reported was “a large chunk” of the boy’s cheek. As a result, the Connecticut Supreme Court is now forced to determine whether horses are “inherently vicious.”
Before the case got to the Connecticut Supreme Court, the farm’s owner, Timothy Astriab, had won at a lower court in 2010 when a judge ruled that the child’s father failed to prove that the owner knew of any previous incidents where the horse acted aggressively and that there had not been any bites or injuries in 28 years at the farm.
However, Astriab admitted that the horse in question, like any other horse, could potentially bite someone if provoked.
Vendrella took the case to the Appellate Court, which overturned the victory last year. The jury ruled that the farm hadn’t provided proper notice of a horse’s likelihood of nipping, that signs and fencing were not enough protection and that “the injury suffered by the little boy was foreseeable and the owners of the farm had a duty to use reasonable care to restrain the animal to prevent injury,” according to the Connecticut Post.
The case resulted in the court coming to a shocking conclusion: Horses are “a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious.”
Mischievous might be a fair label for some horses, and working around them requires caution on our part if only because of their sheer size and strength, but declaring the whole species vicious is insanity, especially considering they’re herbivores and prey animals who have worked beside us for thousands of years. Any animal can bite or cause an injury, but that doesn’t make them vicious.
Now the Supreme Court is set to decide whether this label should stick. Equine advocates are opposing it, not just because it’s ridiculous and unreasonable, but because of the effects it would have on the industry in the state.
The owners of horse farms and equestrian businesses are asking the Supreme Court to overturn the decision, claiming that if the vicious label stays, insurers will no longer cover their businesses or will raise premiums to an unaffordable level, and they’ll be forced to shut down. In the end it could kill an industry that brings in $221 million to the state’s economy, in addition to setting a dangerous precedent.
”You could not pair children and horses, the core equestrian business nationwide that it’s all about,” Doug Dubitsky, a lawyer who represents farmers and horse businesses, told the AP.
The Connecticut Farm Bureau and Connecticut Horse Council (CHC) filed a friend of the court brief, arguing that under common law, viciousness is typically judged on a case-by-case basis, not by including an entire species, according to the Connecticut Post.
Fred Mastele, president of the CHC, told The Horse that he doesn’t know when a ruling might be made and what, if any, legislation might result in the future to protect people if the court rules to keep the label.
If the Supreme Court backs the Appellate Court, Connecticut would become the first state the U.S. to categorize horses as inherently vicious.
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