The Connecticut legislature has passed a bill declaring that domesticated horses are not naturally dangerous animals – a move prompted by a court ruling over a bite inflicted by a horse named Scuppy on a 5-year-old boy.
The passage of the bill through the state Senate followed its successful passage through the House. The votes were unanimous in both chambers.
The bill will now go to Governor Dannel Molloy, who had introduced the legislation.
The bill is aimed at saving the state’s horse owners potentially higher insurance bills.
It followed a Supreme Court ruling involving Scuppy, who bit a boy on the face at a Milford farm. The boy was in his father’s arms at the time.
The father won High Court approval to take a negligence case to a superior court. The Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling that horses were inclined to do mischief or be vicious.
The new legislations clarifies in law that domesticated horses are not wild animals and as such are not “inherently dangerous”.
However, the new legislation allows for the presumption that equines are not dangerous to be refuted case-by-case, based largely on the past behavior of the animal and the degree of injury caused.
Malloy said: “With final passage secured by the state legislature today, I look forward to signing this bill, which has been a top concern to many horse owners and handlers, and our state’s associated agriculture industry.
“The agriculture sector of Connecticut’s economy has been growing significantly over the past couple of years, and we need to ensure that the laws in our state statutes encourage this growth. I’d specifically like to thank Environment Committee co-chair State Senator Ed Meyer and the entire Connecticut General Assembly for their support of this bill.”
The Supreme Court, in its March ruling, said: “The natural propensity of horses to nip and bite was recognized by every witness who gave testimony on the subject during the summary judgment proceedings, and, in any event, it is a matter of common knowledge.
“Accordingly, because courts can take judicial notice of matters of common knowledge, the trial court should take judicial notice of the fact that horses have a natural propensity to nip and bite, and leave for the jury the more limited question of whether the defendants … in light of this knowledge and their knowledge of Scuppy’s past behavior, took reasonable precautions to prevent Scuppy from causing foreseeable harm.”