Legislation Filed in Response to Connecticut Horse Bite Case

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy has introduced legislation that would prohibit domestic horses from being considered vicious. The bill comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the father of a toddler bitten while petting a pastured horse at a farm in Milford, Conn., in 2006.

The initial court ruling in 2010 sided with the horse’s owner due to the horse’s lack of a biting history. However, that decision was appealed and overturned in February 2012, resulting in a pending Supreme Court case, reasoning that the horse belongs to “a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious.” 

The new legislation, introduced Feb. 11, would nullify that claim. “This legislation will protect owners of domesticated horses from a precedent-setting state court decision that unfortunately used too large of a brush to paint an entire species of animals as wild, threatens an industry, and would treat these owners unlike any other state in the nation,” said Malloy.

If this legislation passes, future lawsuits would be based on the presumption that a horse, pony, donkey, or mule is not inherently dangerous and “does not possess a vicious propensity.” That presumption could then be rebutted by evidence pertaining to a particular animal of the equine species.

Area horse owners are concerned that if equids are declared as innately vicious, insurance coverage for businesses that involve horses would skyrocket or be cancelled altogether: “If horses are determined to be ‘vicious animals’ they would be uninsurable and any and all uses would be affected," said Fred Mastele, acting president of the Connecticut Horse Council. "Training and boarding stables, therapeutic riding, horse camps, petting zoos, trail riding, and other horse-related uses and activities would be impacted.”

A University of Connecticut College of Agriculture and Natural Resources study estimates Connecticut’s horse population to be more than 50,000 with a combined value exceeding $317 million. "The Connecticut horse industry is a vital part of the state’s economy,” the study said.

About the Author

Diane E. Rice

Diane E. Rice earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism from the University of Wisconsin, then melded her education and her lifelong passion for horses in an editorial position at Appaloosa Journal. She currently works as a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and photographer and has served on American Horse Publications’ board of directors. Rice spends her spare time gardening, reading, serving in her church, and with her daughters, grandchildren, and pets.

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