Legal Update: Connecticut Horse Law

Horses can no longer be considered vicious just because they are horses, according to a new state law in Connecticut.
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Horses can’t be considered vicious just because they are horses, according to a new state law in Connecticut. As obvious as that seems, the law is a big relief to Connecticut horse owners and anyone else involved with the state’s roughly 43,000 horses. 

A new Connecticut law says that a horse can’t be assumed to be a danger to people unless he has shown signs of such behavior in the past. © Amy K. Dragoo/arnd.nl

A new Connecticut law says that a horse can’t be assumed to be a danger to people unless he has shown signs of such behavior in the past. © Amy K. Dragoo/arnd.nl

The Connecticut state legislature passed the law unanimously in response to a civil-court case brought by the parents of a toddler who was bitten by a horse. (Read more about the case in the December 2013 Health Update.) In a 2012 ruling supporting the parents, a state appellate court held that horses are “a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious.” Earlier this year the state Supreme Court upheld that ruling. While the Supreme Court stopped short of saying that horses are vicious by nature, the decision left horse owners and professionals wondering what sort of liability—and insurance premiums—they might face. 

The new law is intended to settle the question. It says that in any personal-injury suit stemming from the actions of a horse (or pony, donkey or mule), the animal can’t be assumed to have a “propensity to engage in behavior that would foreseeably cause injury to humans” unless he has shown signs of such behavior in the past. That fits with the standard rules of negligence followed by most states in such cases. 

This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Practical Horseman.

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