By: Lynsey Freeman, Staff Member
The horse industry in Connecticut was thrown into turmoil in May of 2006 at the hooves of a horse named Scuppy. In
Vendrella v. Astriab Family Limited Partnership
, the Supreme Court of Connecticut recently released its 6-0 decision in April, affirming the Appellate Court’s ruling that a horse belongs to “a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious.”
Specifically, the Court held as a matter of law, owners or keepers of a domestic animal, even one that have not previously displayed mischievous propensities, have a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent injuries that are foreseeable because of the animal's naturally mischievous propensities.
The ruling stemmed from when a young boy tried to pet a horse named Scuppy at a Milford farm.
The animal stuck his neck out from behind a fence and bit the child on his right cheek, “removing a large chunk of it.”
Despite the Court’s assurances that “neither the Appellate Court nor this court concludes that horses may be presumed to be dangerous,”
the decision has appalled horse farm owners in Connecticut, who fear that classifying the animals as “vicious” could make owning a horse uninsurable.
In response, the General Assembly passed a bill clarifying that domesticated horses are not wild animals and as such are not “inherently dangerous.”
Connecticut’s governor, Dannel Malloy says: “I look forward to signing this bill, which has been a top concern to many horse owners and handlers, and our state’s associated agriculture industry.”
While horse owners were on the edge of their saddles for over eight years awaiting the final ruling, this legislation has righted the wrong that the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling could have potentially had on horse owners in the state. This was the appropriate way to handle potential dangers posed by the animals; it permits horse owners to allow others to enjoy their horses, while still protecting the public at large by requiring horse owners to act reasonably and prevent foreseeable accidents. Hopefully, when other states are confronted with similar situations in the future they will look to the compromise set forth through Connecticut’s courts and legislature for precedent.
Vendrella v. Astriab Family Ltd. P’ship
, 87 A.3d 546 (Conn. 2014).
Supreme Court Finds Horses Are “Naturally” Vicious,
(March 26, 2014) http://connecticut.cbslocal.com/2014/03/26/supreme-court-finds-horses-are-naturally-vicious/.
Dannel P. Malloy,
Gov. Malloy Applauds Final Passage of Legislation Protecting Owners and Handlers of Domesticated Horses, Looks Forward to Signing Bill
, (May 6, 2014) http://www.governor.ct.gov/malloy/cwp/view.asp?Q=544390&A=4010.