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Horses Can Bite; Connecticut Justices Send "Scuppy" Case Back to Lower Court

Courtesy of Flickr CC by Doug Wheller

The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that owners of horses or other domestic animals must prevent the animal from causing injuries, siding with a family whose child was bitten by a horse. The court on Wednesday upheld an Appellate Court ruling that said a horse belongs to "a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious."

The lawsuit began in 2006 when a boy was bitten trying to pet a horse named Scuppy at a Milford farm. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a jury could reasonably conclude that a horse uses its mouth and teeth to investigate a person feeding it and if the person is not paying attention, "this behavior can escalate to a bite."

Horse owners and farmers have said designating horses vicious would make owning them uninsurable.

A summary of the opinion states the majority "did not rule that horses have dangerous propensities or are naturally inclined to cause injuries." And " the question of whether an animal...is naturally inclined to cause injuries must be made on a case-by-case basis. " The Supreme Court ordered the case back to the Superior Court for further proceedings.

Meanwhile, Governor Dannel Malloy introduced legislation last month to protect horse owners.   

The governor's bill clarified that domesticated horses, ponies, donkeys and mules in general, are not “inherently dangerous” and do not “possess a vicious propensity.” His bill also stated that the question of whether horses are vicious should be answered on a case-by-case.  In a statement on Wednesday, Malloy said the legislation is especially timely. And he stressed the agriculture sector contributes $3.5 billion to Connecticut's economy and accounts for 28,000 jobs in the state.

This report includes information from The Associated Press.

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