In a case that could throw Connecticut’s equine industry into turmoil, the state’s Supreme Court is set to rule on whether the majestic animals are an innately “vicious” species.
An appeal in the case was scheduled for Tuesday.
If the court rules that horses are vicious beasts, would render horses uninsurable, making it impossible for horse owners to allow children to ride or even pet them. The pairing of horses with kids is “the core equestrian business nationwide that it's all about," says Doug Dubitsky, a lawyer for horse farmers.
The case originated from an incident in 1986 at Glendale Farms in Milford, Conn. Disregarding signs that warned against feeding and petting horses, Anthony Vendrella held his toddler son up to try to feed a horse name Scuppy.
Scuppy reacted by biting the boy in the face, taking out what court documents described as “a large chunk” of the boy’s right cheek.
Vendrella sued but lost his initial case, when a court ruled that he failed to show that the farm’s owner, Timothy Astriab, knew of any prior incidents of the horse biting a human. In fact, the court found, there was no record of any such incident in yhe farm’s 28-year history.
However, Astriab testified that Scuppy, like most animals, would bite if provoked. That led to a state appellate court reversing the original judge’s ruling.
"Significantly, Astriab acknowledged his concern that if someone made contact with Scuppy, whether to pet or feed him, they could get bit," the appellate justices wrote, adding that Astriab’s acknowledgement proved that horses are “a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious."
The horse industry in Connecticut is said to bring $221 million per year to the state’s economy. If the state’s highest court upholds the ruling, a large portion of that revenue could evaporate.
The Connecticut Farm Bureau and Connecticut Horse Council have filed a brief in the case saying that animal viciousness is traditionally judged on a case-by-case basis, not with a pronouncement covering an entire species.
SOURCES: Norwich Bulletin, Western Farm Press