Beebe and O'Neil

Connecticut Supreme Court holds owners responsible for horse bite

When most of us hear about animal bite injuries, pictures of vicious dogs leap into our minds. We have all heard stories about serious injuries caused by dog bites, but it is almost unheard of for a horse bite story to top the headlines.  

However, in a recent decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that horse owners can be held liable for bite injuries caused by their horses. The decision came after the owners of a Connecticut farm appealed an appellate court decision which held that horses are “a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious.” The case originated in 2006 after the horse bit a boy who was trying to pet it.

Horse owners and farmers are concerned about the decision because they believe that they will not be able to purchase insurance if their animals are designated as vicious. The opinion, however, did not conclude that horses in general are dangerous or naturally inclined to bite. It did find however, whether an animal is dangerous must be determined on a case-by-case basis, and that a jury can reasonably conclude that a horse owner is liable for injuries caused by a bite.  

The Connecticut governor has proposed new legislation to clarify that domesticated animals such as horses, mules and donkeys are not inherently dangerous. The legislation is intended to protect the interests of Connecticut’s agriculture industry, which employs about 28,000 people in the state and contributes $3.5 billion to the Connecticut economy.

It is important for victims of animal bites to understand that they have specific rights and may be entitled to compensation for damages, regardless of what type of animal caused the injury.

Source: WNPR News, "Horses can bite; Connecticut Justices send ‘Scuppy’ case back to lower court," Lucy Nalpathanchil, March 26, 2014

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