New Connecticut Law: Horses Not Vicious

New Connecticut Law: Horses Not Vicious

The new law prevents domesticated horses from being classified as vicious.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

The Connecticut Senate unanimously passed HB 5044 on May 6, which prevents domesticated horses from being classified as vicious. The state’s House of Representatives passed the law unanimously in April, and Governor Dannel P. Malloy, who introduced the legislation in February, has committed to signing the bill into law. 

The law refutes two court decisions that involved a horse in Milford, Connecticut, that bit a child 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 Supreme Court case decided in March. That decision stated that horse owners and keepers have “a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent injuries that are foreseeable because the animal belongs to a species or breed that is naturally inclined to cause such injuries, and that the owner may be held liable for negligence if he or she fails to take such reasonable steps and an injury results.” This decision resulted in court decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Malloy initially introduced the legislation in response to concerns that classifying horses as vicious would cause insurance rates for horse-related businesses to skyrocket or for insurance to be cancelled altogether. This could have threatened the state’s horse industry, including breeding, training and boarding stables; therapeutic riding programs; horse camps; petting zoos; trail riding; and other horse-related activities.

“Connecticut’s agriculture sector contributes $3.5 billion to our economy, accounts for about 28,000 jobs in our state, and is an industry with tremendous growth potential,” Malloy said.

When Malloy signs the bill into law, future lawsuits will be based on the presumption that a horse, pony, donkey or mule is not inherently dangerous, which could then be rebutted by evidence pertaining to a particular animal of the equine species.

The bill is available for review online.

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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