Are Horses 'Vicious'? Court to Decide

Upholding the classification could jeopardize Connecticut's equine industry

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Sep 24, 2013 8:29 AM CDT

(Newser) – After a horse named Scuppy bit a boy in the face, a Connecticut court came to a conclusion that threw animal lovers: Horses are a naturally vicious species. Now, horse owners and farmers are mobilizing as the state Supreme Court hears an appeal in the case today. Such a classification—America's first, if it stands—would make owning horses uninsurable and jeopardize the state's sizable horse industry, farmers and horse owners say. "You could not pair children and horses, the core equestrian business nationwide that it's all about," said Doug Dubitsky, a lawyer who represents farmers and horse businesses.

When the boy tried to pet the horse at Glendale Farms in 2006, according to court papers, the animal stuck his neck out and bit the child on his right cheek, "removing a large chunk of it." In February 2012, the mid-level Appellate Court said that testimony by Timothy Astriab, whose family owns the farm, demonstrated that Scuppy belongs to "a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious." Although he had no knowledge of Scuppy biting anyone before, Astriab testified that Scuppy was no different than other horses that would bite if a finger was put in front of him. "Significantly, Astriab acknowledged his concern that if someone made contact with Scuppy, whether to pet or feed him, they could get bit," the justices said. Horse enthusiasts are asking the state Supreme Court to throw out the decision, arguing that under common law viciousness is judged individually according to age, breed, and gender, not as an entire species.

A horse shows his teeth through a barn door on  Aug. 31, 2010 at the Elko County Fairgrounds in Elko, Nevada.
A horse shows his teeth through a barn door on Aug. 31, 2010 at the Elko County Fairgrounds in Elko, Nevada.   (AP Photo/Elko Daily Free Press, Ross Andreson)
Silhouette, an Arabian horse that lives at Maxine Mager's Creative Acres animal sanctuary in Brighton, Colo., shows its teeth, Sunday, July 1, 2007.
Silhouette, an Arabian horse that lives at Maxine Mager's Creative Acres animal sanctuary in Brighton, Colo., shows its teeth, Sunday, July 1, 2007.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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