Horses innately vicious? CT courts to decide.


Businesses fear effects of court case about horses

From: The Day By Kelly Catalfamo

Scuppy the horse.

Scuppy the horse.

A case now being considered by the state Supreme Court could have “catastrophic” consequences for local businesses that work with horses, according to Kathy Freeman, program director of Beech Brook Farm Equine Rescue in Mystic.

The court listened to arguments last week about a 2006 incident in which a horse at Glendale Farms in Milford bit a child on the cheek when he tried to pet it. In 2012, an appellate court found that the owner of the horse was at fault because horses are “a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious,” according to an Associated Press report.

Several local horse owners say that if the Supreme Court agrees that horses are dangerous and upholds the appellate court decision, insurance will be unaffordable and they could be put out of business.

Aside from the practical effects of such a ruling, some area residents who work with horses say the court’s characterization of horse behavior is not accurate.

“I think it’s ridiculous to think every member of any species is vicious,” said Dee Doolittle, founder and executive director of Mitchell Farm Equine Retirement in Salem. Her farm offers a place for older horses, which are more likely to be neglected or abused, to live peacefully in old age.

Mary Jean Vasiloff, who owns McCulloch Farm in Old Lyme, called the case “absolutely outrageous.”

She blamed the situation on ignorance about horses in today’s society, adding that there is “just plain garbage on the Internet about horses.”

Vasiloff believes that with fewer people interacting with animals in the way they used to, they don’t always understand how to act around horses.

At McCulloch Farm, Vasiloff allows visitors to interact with and pet horses and has several people who board their pets in her stalls. She’s been working with horses since 1940, when she was 10, and said she has only seen a few people bitten.

In those cases, she said, the horse was usually provoked. She described one incident where a horse owner was bitten when she put herself in between her stallion and a stallion in another stall.

Jenifer Nadeau, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Animal Science, said that horses are prey animals and are not inherently dangerous, though they may become dangerous if they are startled.

“A horse may react unpredictably since they are prey, much as a deer or moose would,” said Nadeau. “However, I would not at all say that they are inherently vicious and likely to bite or kick. That is simply untrue. If one startles them, they may react this way to protect themselves.”

Vasiloff said that some horses may be more aggressive because they have been handled poorly, and recently had some owners remove their horses from her farm because she thought they might bite.

She said those horses were bred to be “hot, energetic show horses” and that improper handling led to them being more aggressive than other horses at the farm.

Horses are usually gentle, however, said Vasiloff, and incidents of aggression are rare. She said they are “very social” and that even sometimes adopt other animals as companions, including goats, chickens and even snakes.

Vasiloff worries that if the Supreme Court upholds the Appellate Court’s ruling that horses are dangerous animals, “there will be no (more) horses in Connecticut” because of the insurance and liability issues.

Nadeau agreed that such a ruling could be detrimental to the horse industry, because it can already be costly to insure equine events and may become impossible if horses are considered vicious animals.

Also, “one wonders, would we have to cage horses like a lion or tiger?” asked Nadeau. “That would totally change the husbandry of horses and cost the horse industry millions of dollars for something completely unnecessary.”

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AUTHOR: Amber Barnes
  • Kerry

    HA! Dogs bite more people than horses ever do. Horses are just creatures. But Churchillian O’Reilly’s book “Deadly Equines” is a facinating read.

    September 30, 2013
  • Patricia Gelsleichter

    This is totally ridiculous. Horses are not viscious animal. Good heavens, what is the world coming to.

    September 30, 2013
  • NorthStar326326 (Twitter)

    How absurd! Horses are fight or flight animals with a natural tendency to protect their heads. How about we have a Supreme Court decision that PARENTS that fail to oversee their children around horses are INNATELY STUPID & IRRESPONSIBLE!

    September 30, 2013
  • Tim Hoy

    I agree with _ridiculous_. And I’d bet if you took the chain off Scuppy’s face, his attitude would improve in less than an hour of ground work.

    September 30, 2013
  • Sue Wallis Lies

    One word. Really?

    This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

    September 30, 2013
  • sherriey

    …well then…i guess if you can call all horses vicious after one incident….then after all the millions of incidents on dogs biting people or cats scratching people…then you could say ALL cats and dogs are vicious!

    give me a break! this is totally ridiculous!!!

    October 1, 2013
    • sherriey

      …and as for that horse biting the little girl….where was the stable owner? why wasn’t the child supervised? where was her parents? no child or person should be left alone unsupervised with any strange horses, cats, dogs…etc! animals are animals and its the responsibility of the owner and parent to be sure that the child didn’t get hurt. the horse could have stepped on the kid too…or kicked her….
      when i was a kid…i was always warned to never pet any strange animal…as a parent, my children were never allowed to touch or go near a strange animal…and were never unsupervised even around my own horses! horses spook, dogs get nervous, cats don’t like strangers….for God’s sake…be a PARENT and supervise your kid! duh…don’t sue McDonalds for getting burned with the hot coffee you just purchased!
      this world keeps spawning idiots!

      October 1, 2013
  • Amy Miller

    I agree that too many people are sue happy and it makes it harder for others to enjoy horses or whatever without the cost of liability or insurance getting into the way. The father was responsible, there should have been no trial. The cost should have come onto the parent and that is it. It was his negligence that caused all this ridiculous up roar and he should not get away with this. Horses are not vicious but they are big, curious creatures and need to be supervised around small kids and also the other way around. It is true dogs bite more than horses and are not deemed born vicious.

    October 4, 2013
  • Amy Miller

    Darn, I meant the father was irresponsible, there should have been no trial.

    October 4, 2013
  • Richard Burton Jr

    After everything that has happened in this state over the past year, I think we should all recognize that the “adults”‘ parents and children of Fairfield County are “innately vicious, irresponsible and ignorant by nature”. The whole county should all be locked up and give psychological evaluations before being let out into public ! The only conclusion I can come to is that someone in the judicial system is friends with the “parents” and they are all looking to make money off the insurance policy of someone who has no money.

    October 13, 2013