Most horse owners would probably agree with the mischief part.
[top image: Wikimedia Commons]
Phew–good news for boarding barns and other equine-related businesses in Connecticut. A recent ruling says that legally horses will not be automatically assumed to be dangerous animals, though the practical truth of that assumption is another matter (as anyone who has accidentally been stepped on, mistaken for a carrot, or had an arm nearly pulled out of its socket by a 1200-lb. kite will tell you). However, the Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that horses are “a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious,” so trial courts must decide on a case-by-case basis whether individual horses have proven themselves to be dangerous or not, and whether their owners are liable.
This is isn’t just an argument of semantics–it’s one more step in the eight-year dispute between representatives of Glendale Farms (a plant nursery and horse boarding barn) and Anthony Vendrella, a customer of the nursery whose son was bitten on the face in 2006 when he tried to pet a horse named Scuppy. The case has been tied up in appeals and legal arguments about whether or not the farm was negligent in warning the public about the individual horse, though ultimately it was decided that Scuppy had shown no prior signs of aggression.
So why did the question of whether horses in general are vicious and mischievous come up? The original trial court, rather than basing their decision on whether the individual horse was dangerous, used a 100-year-old Connecticut Supreme Court precedent instead. That case established that domestic animal owners had to make an effort to protect people from injury if their animal was a species “naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious, or if it in fact be vicious.” That particular case involved a cat…a species that courts decided was “kindly and docile,” “not inclined to mischief” and “one of the most tame and harmless of all domestic animals.”
I’ll leave that one up to Horse Nation to decide.
MISCHIEF: Horses vs. cats
VICIOUS: Cats vs. dog vs. horse vs. horse
I guess they shake out to be about equal, actually (though I’d much rather be swatted by a cat than kicked by a horse!). At least members of both species will be tried as individuals under Connecticut law.