The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

September 23, 2013

Conn. court weighs if horses are innately vicious

— HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — 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.

Horse owners and farmers are mobilizing as the state Supreme Court hears an appeal in the case Tuesday. Such a classification — the nation'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 Milford in 2006, according to court papers, the animal stuck his neck out from behind a fence and bit the child on his right cheek, "removing a large chunk of it."

In February 2012, the mid-level Appellate Court overturned a lower court ruling and 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.

The injury suffered by the boy was foreseeable and the owners of the farm had a duty to use reasonable care to restrain the animal to prevent injury, the Appellate Court ruled.

Astriab did not return a call on Monday seeking comment.

If allowed to stand, Connecticut would be the first state to consider horses as inherently dangerous, said Dubitsky.

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