Skip to comments.Conn. court: Horse owners must prevent injuries (claims horses “naturally vicious”)
Posted on 03/29/2014 9:57:50 AM PDT by Olog-hai
Owners of horses and other domestic animals must try to prevent their animals from causing foreseeable injuries, the states highest court ruled Wednesday in a decision that avoided the larger issue of whether horses are inherently vicious while siding with a family whose child was bitten by one.
The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 6-0 to uphold an Appellate Court decision that said a horse belongs to a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious. But four of the justices said that the question of whether an animal is naturally dangerous must be considered individually by lower courts. [ ]
Connecticuts sizable horse industry has warned that classifying the animals as vicious could make owning a horse uninsurable. Legislation is moving through the General Assembly proposing to reduce liability exposure for the owner or keeper of a horse, pony, donkey or mule in civil actions for personal injury damages caused by the animal.
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Only an educated idiot would say horses are vicious.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t a horse’s temperament largely a product of how it was reared?
Or someone who has seen mustangs on the range in the west.
Yes, they are vicious. Just watch a couple of studs fight it out over a water hole.
I’ve had mustangs take more than a little interest in me when I’d approach their favorite water holes. They’ll zoom in straight at you and veer off at the last moment, trying to haze you off.
Largely, perhaps. But it’s debatable how much.
For some odd reason horses always hated my late Brother-In-Law (BIL). Even when he was a little kid and he was placed on a pony for a picture. The beast bit him on the leg and dragged him off of its back. Any time he went anywhere near a horse it reacted aggressively.
That’s why it is said, wild horses can’t drag it out of him or her.
Approaching any wild animal has its dangers. But the Connecticut SC is ruling that even domesticated horses hold this danger.
horsies are weird
that’s kind of like blaming chihuahuas because of pitbulls?
Stallions CAN be dangerous
Mustangs aren’t “wild” animals. They’re domesticated animals that have been allowed to run feral.
There’s a difference.
Take the dog vs. the wolf.
You can adopt feral dogs and domesticate them again. You can do this especially well with puppies. Likewise, you can train up mustangs from foals to do what domestic horses do - just as you’d train any horse.
Where you have a truly wild animal (eg, the wolf), no matter how you care for an adopted pup, there comes that day when the pup realizes it is a wild animal and it starts to tear your house apart, eat the cat and start looking at humans as food. That’s a wild animal.
There haven’t been any “wild” horses in North America for about 8,000 years or so.
What was the age of the vicious horse? If it was less than 2 years old, there’s no venom in the fangs yet so the bites aren’t that bad.
Back story: 20+ years ago when my older boys were still little, my best friend and I took them to the town agro fair (we’re still one of the towns in Connecticut that has one) There was a petting area with a calf and other critters.
All of the kids were feeding the calf grass and, of course, getting calf slobber all over their hands. Son #3 didn’t want to feed the calf grass because he didn’t want to get slobbered on. My friend says - totally straight face - “Oh, there’s nothing to worry about, the venom hasn’t come into the calf’s fangs yet.”
A woman standing on the other side of my friend says, “Oh, I didn’t realize that cows had fangs.” She totally believed my friend was telling the truth. I thought I would choke trying to hold back my laughter. It’s been a big joke ever since.
So how do the leading zoologists trace the horse into North America? Perhaps they came over a land bridge?
Poison horses haw!
My FIL had a mule that was as crazy as a loon, when you were in the pasture you ALWAYS kept an eye on him and never let him get in your blind spot.
Never could break it from wanting to hurt you if it could, it went to the great glue factory in the sky via the local auction house after it bit my MIL one too many times.
I forgot to mention it was a miniature mule as well.
Goodness gracious...I guess Connecticut has gotten so citified they don’t encounter animals any more (unless they roam in gangs and beat the heck out of anyone in their way)
Does this include humans as a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious.?
My dad grew up on a farm. He didn’t like horses. He liked mules. I was around them when my daughter owned one and rode. She could make a 2000 pound horse lift his or her foot to “pick it out.” The horse we bought her was cheap because he did bite. By the time we had to donate him to a college, she was putting her hands in his mouth and would have put her head if it had fit. He loved her so much that when he heard my car bringing her to the stable where he was boarded he would start calling to her. He let me feed him but you learn quickly that you put the carrot on a flat hands for them to take. I love horses or at least equines. We have a small farm and one of my goals is to get a donkey. I don’t want to ride a horse or a mule but just hang out with an equine animal. Maybe a small mule. I love the smell and the energy.
Any creature, including humans, can become vicious when they live in the desert and their source of water, which they need to survive, is threatened.
I had the privilege of owning a mustang that had been adopted by someone that decided he didn’t want him. After a little work with him, Gunner turned out to be a great companion.
Get a donkey, they have way more personality and also make great watch-animals as well. They get attached to you and can be as loyal as any dog if you raise it right.
The Demokratik Peoples Republik of Connect the Dots just seems to get more insane with each passing moment.
I’m referring to domesticated horses, not wild ones.
We’ve raised and managed horses for many years. Currently, we have eight; four Arabians, one Thoroughbred, one Belgian, and one Paint; five mares, three geldings. The state recognizes that equine activities are inherently dangerous and provides in statute that persons engaged in activity around horses assume liability for injuries that may result.
The animals are generally docile, if raised appropriately, but can still, given the necessary circumstances, react violently to threats, harm, or injury. They can be ‘high strung’ when the weather takes a sudden turn, for instance. A great deal of the outburst is controllable by a handler who can control his/her own emotion and stress level. These animals often take their lead from the handler.
We enjoy our critters very much, but we don’t take their routinely calm demeanors for granted, either.
Were the state to revise it’s assessment of equine activities by finding the animals to be inherently vicious, it would decimate the small owner industry by making it nearly impossible to get insurance for the farms that house these critters.
More evidence that the government of Connecticut is a pack of lunatics.
I had a miniature burro one time. Jenny was hardheaded but never mean.
OK a donkey it is and I also want some guenie hens and fainting goats.
Nipping and biting is a normal behavior between horses. They must be trained to not nip and bite at people.
Poor training can increase biting and good training can reduce it. Especially if the nipping/biting behavior is related to treats or food.
Describing the species as “naturally vicious” is stupid though. That’s a designation for wild predator species, not domesticated prey species.
This decision merely means that since a horse CAN bite, the jury needs to hear the case to decide if the owner was negligent or not. It is NOT a determination that the owner was negligent, only that a jury should be allowed to hear the case.
From the decision:
“This court has recognized in another context that foreseeability “is a flexible concept . . . .” Burns v. Board of Education, 228 Conn. 640, 647, 638 A.2d 1 (1994). Consistent with this flexible approach, this court previously has recognized that, in making the determination as to whether an injury caused by a domestic animal was foreseeable, the jury may consider the animal’s “previous behavior, the owner’s knowledge of that behavior, the circumstances that gave rise to the harm, and the actual harm inflicted.” Allen v. Cox, supra, 285 Conn. 615. We now conclude that, in addition to these factors, the jury may consider the natural propensities of the class of domestic animals to which the specific animal belongs. See 3 Restatement (Second), supra, § 518, comment (g), p. 31 (”In determining the care that the keeper of a not abnormally dangerous domestic animal is required to exercise to keep it under control, the characteristics that are normal to its class are decisive, and one who keeps the animal is required to know the characteristics. Thus the keeper of a bull or stallion is required to take greater precautions to confine it to the land [*69] on which it is kept and to keep it under effective control when it is taken from the land than would be required of the keeper of a cow or gelding.”); id., comment (h), p. 32 (”Thus the keeper of even a gentle bull must take into account the tendencies of bulls as a class to attack moving objects and must exercise greater precautions to keep his bull under complete control if he drives it upon a public highway. So, too, the keeper of an ordinarily gentle bitch or cat is required to know that while caring for her puppies or kittens she is likely to attack other animals and human beings.”).
Thus, to establish that an injury caused by a domestic animal was foreseeable, the plaintiff need not prove that the species as a whole has a natural tendency to inflict such harm, but only that the class of animals to which the specific animal belongs has such a tendency. See id., comment (g), p. 31; see also Bischoff v. Cheney, supra, 89 Conn. 5 (although cats generally are harmless, if particular cat belongs to class of cats having mischievous propensities, owner can be held liable for injuries inflicted by cat). Conversely, if a plaintiff presents evidence that an entire species has naturally mischievous [*70] propensities, the defendant may rebut this evidence by producing evidence that the mischievous propensities of the specific animal, or of the particular class of animals to which the specific animal belongs, are less severe than the mischievous propensities of the species as a whole.
We also recognize that “[t]he degree of foreseeability necessary to warrant [imposing liability] will . . . vary from case to case.” Gomez v. Ticor, 145 Cal. App. 3d 622, 629, 193 Cal. Rptr. 600 (1983); see also Burns v. Board of Education, supra, 228 Conn. 647 (”evolving expectations of a maturing society [may] change the harm that may reasonably be considered foreseeable”). If the foreseeable harm was not severe and the harm could not be prevented except by extraordinarily burdensome means, the jury reasonably could find that the defendant should not be held liable unless the injury was highly foreseeable. Gomez v. Ticor, supra, 629 (”in cases where the burden of preventing future harm is great, a high degree of foreseeability may be required”). Conversely, when the foreseeable harm was severe and it could easily have been prevented by the defendant, a lesser degree of foreseeability may be sufficient [*71] to impose liability. Id.
With these principles in mind, we turn to the evidence presented by the plaintiffs in the present case. In their memorandum in support of their objection to the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs quoted from a deposition given by Astriab. Astriab testified that, when he saw families near the horses in the paddock at Glendale Farms, he would tell them to stay away from the horses because he did not want them to be bitten. He testified that a horse bite could “cause great physical damage,” and admitted that horses with no known propensity to bite could bite “by their very nature . . . .” He also admitted that this was true of “the calmest horse on any given day . . . .” The plaintiffs also quoted from the deposition testimony of Fire Captain Begley, who stated that horses “have been doing it all since the beginning of time, biting and kicking.” He explained that “it’s like a kid, they want to feel everything with their mouth.”
In addition, the plaintiffs quoted the deposition testimony of George, the animal control officer who had investigated the incident. George agreed that “a horse doesn’t have to have a tendency to bite in order to bite.” [*72] He testified that he had been “nipped” and that he had “got it in the belly one time.” The horse that had bitten him in the belly “got a pretty good chunk of [him].” The bite broke the skin and left a bruise. That horse had not been known to bite.
In an affidavit attached to the plaintiffs’ response to the defendants’ reply to their objection, Amery, an equine veterinarian, stated that “[b]iting is a natural part of horses’ lives and horses can bite for many reasons.” Because of the anatomy of the horse’s head, a horse cannot see what is directly in front of its nose and “is reliant on the sensory input from his mouth. While the nervous system is fast it is unable to process all that information before the bite has occurred.” Amery also stated that “[b]iting is . . . a common form of mutual grooming” by horses. When humans replicate this natural grooming behavior, a bite can result. Horses also “nip” to attract a person’s attention, especially if they have been hand-fed treats. Other conduct, such as scratching the horse’s muzzle or head, petting its neck or giving verbal rewards can also result in nipping behavior that can escalate to a full bite if the person is not paying complete [*73] attention to the horse.26 Finally, Amery stated that most horse bites are not the result of an abnormally aggressive or nasty disposition, but occur when the horse is being groomed, is being “tacked up,” is being hand-fed treats, or is in pain.
In their supplemental objection to the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs quoted from a second deposition by Astriab that had only recently been taken. Astriab testified in that deposition that he placed signs along his property to warn people not to touch or feed the horses. He was concerned that the horses would bite persons who tried to feed them. He also agreed that Scuppy was a “typical” horse that could bite when being hand-fed or petted, and that biting is a “typical reaction when something is put in front of a horse.”
We conclude that this evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, as it [*74] must be, created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether horses have a natural propensity to bite that rendered the minor plaintiff’s bite injury foreseeable. A jury reasonably could conclude from this evidence that, when a person stands directly in front of, hand-feeds or pets a horse, it is foreseeable that the horse will use its mouth and teeth to investigate the person or to attract the person’s attention and, if the person is not paying full attention to the horse, this behavior can escalate to a bite. Indeed, Astriab conceded that a “typical” horse will have a tendency to bite something that is placed directly in front of it or when being hand-fed or petted.
In support of their claim to the contrary, the defendants contend that, to establish that it was foreseeable under the circumstances of the present case that Scuppy would bite, the plaintiffs were required to present evidence that it was reasonably probable, or more likely than not, that such an injury would occur, not that it was merely possible. In support of this contention, they rely on the principle that “[a] trier is not concerned with possibilities but with reasonable probabilities.” (Internal quotation marks [*75] omitted.) Aspiazu v. Orgera, 205 Conn. 623, 630, 535 A.2d 338 (1987).
This principle, however, applies to the causal connection between a defendant’s conduct and a plaintiff’s damages; id.; and requires the plaintiff to prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant’s conduct actually caused the damages. This court has never held that, to be a foreseeable injury, the plaintiff must prove that an ordinary person would have believed before the fact that it was more likely than not that the defendant’s conduct would cause the plaintiff’s injury. For example, to establish that it was foreseeable that a pedestrian would slip and fall on an icy sidewalk and break his wrist, a plaintiff need not prove that an ordinary person would believe it was more likely than not that such an injury would occur.27 Rather, the test for foreseeability is “would the ordinary [person] in the defendant’s position, knowing what he knew or should have known, anticipate that harm of the general nature of that suffered was likely to result . . . .” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Allen v. Cox, supra, 285 Conn. 610.
As used in this context, the phrase “likely to result” means that there was an unreasonable [*76] risk that the injury would result.28 See Carrol v. Allstate Ins. Co., 262 Conn. 433, 446, 815 A.2d 119 (2003) (”in order to prevail on a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant should have realized that its conduct involved an unreasonable risk of causing emotional distress”... As we have explained, the determination as to whether a particular risk is unreasonable is to be left to the jury when reasonable minds could reach different conclusions.
In summary, we conclude that, as a matter of law, the owner or keeper of a domestic animal has a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent the animal from causing injuries that are foreseeable because the animal belongs to a class of animals that is naturally inclined to cause such injuries, regardless of whether the animal had previously caused an injury or was roaming at large. We also conclude that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether, under the specific facts and circumstances of the present case, it was foreseeable that Scuppy [*79] would bite the minor plaintiff causing his injury because horses, as a species, have a natural inclination to bite. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the trial court’s summary judgment rendered in favor of the defendants and remanding the case to the trial court for further proceedings.”
Domesticated horses have no natural tendency to attack, bite, or kick human beings. In general they tolerate or actually like us. They injure humans only because of the tremendous disparity in size and weight between humans and horses, and because humans often carelessly do things that are alarming to a prey animal. They have a different visual system than we do, and often get alarmed when they can’t resolve something that’s visually clear to us humans. As prey animals they react to sudden movements by prudently departing the area, or by kicking at it if it’s coming up behind them.
Usually if a horse is handled with kindness it will react with kindness, if not actual altruism. But there are differences for breeding stallions, some hormonal mares, or racehorses who are kept highly fed and allowed out of their stalls only briefly; you can get some bad behavior there. As with any species, it’s possible to unintentionally teach a horse to engage in bad, spoiled, dangerous behavior by being too unassertive.
People can be incredibly stupid in the way they allow their innocent children to interact with horses. I have seen people drive into a horse-breeding facility, pull up to a paddock, and let their children out of the car to go hug the horses before stable staff could run over and stop them. Other people will allow toddlers to walk underneath horses during fly season, when the horses are kicking at flies. Madness! Either of these incidents could have resulted in death—not because horses are vicious, but because they’re big. And of course, these are just the sort of idiots who will sue.
I love donkeys, and we never had any problems when other mules came through usually but that one, which was born on their farm, was freaking insanely vicious.
>There havent been any wild horses in North America for about 8,000 years or so.<
Mustangs, IMO, have reverted to being wild animals. I’ve owned two of them and they both became good working horses.
More lawyers without a clue telling us what we can and cannot do.
The old testament had something to say about this.
English Standard Version (ESV)
28 When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. 29 But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If a ransom is imposed on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is imposed on him.
Most state equine laws, like Connecticut’s, do NOT protect the owner if the owner is found negligent. I don’t know where you live, but I know Arizona’s law allows the owner to be sued for “negligent” behavior - and the courts define negligent to mean almost anything.
If they’re living wild, they are wild versus tame, which is what I meant. Calling them “feral” is a bit pedantic; the wolf and even the cat are examples, since we have domestic forms of both (Canis lupus familiaris and Felis silvestris catus) that can interbreed with their wild counterparts and produce fertile offspring.
They should have brought in an expert on this subject like Prince Charles or Matthew Broderick.
Boy am I glad I ain’t got no oxes (or oxen or pitbulls or ferrets). I’ll stick with my cobras. They ain’t mentioned.
“Naturally inclined to cause such injuries” is a slippery slope, condemning horses as a species that cannot be controlled sufficiently to not bite.
Humans can bite too. So can the CT Supreme Court justices here. Can we trust them to restrain their teeth?
For some odd reason horses always hated my late Brother-In-Law (BIL). ....GEEZ! I did too!. NEIGH, I disliked him severely.
now we have to worry about headless horse necks biting people... damn
OK a donkey it is and I also want some guenie hens and fainting goats.
We’re out of fainting goats. How about a farting dog?
The court points out that a cat or dog can also be considered Naturally inclined to cause such injuries. They are merely saying that since horses can and sometimes do bite, a jury should hear if the owner took reasonable precautions. My guess is that in this case, the owner will be in trouble. He warned people to stay away from the horses because the horses could bite, but he took no steps that I saw in skimming thru the case to prevent customers from approaching the horses.
I like my horses just fine, but I wouldn’t keep them where any customer could approach them unsupervised.
Horses are like most domesticated animals. “Bad behavior” can be the result of perceived danger. Kicking and biting are defensive as well as aggressive or even normal ‘horse-play’.
I know, because I was bitten by a horse. As a young, careless kid standing between two ponies - when the gelding reached around to nibble the mare - he got a grip on my face and wouldn’t let go. Hurt like he!! but after 7 stitches & lots of pain - I still groomed, fed and rode him bareback. No other incidents of deliberate viciousness.
Sounds like Connecticut is a scary place. Next they’ll have venomous bites by hydras, unicorn gorings, illegal cockatrice-fighting . . . bad enough that Diomedes’ mares are already in the state . . .