Tag Archives: horse

Farm Bill Protects Pets and Support Animals of Domestic Violence Victims

by John M. Simpson.

The Conference Committee compromise version of the 2018 Farm Bill, was released on December 10, 164 Cong. Rec. H9823 (Dec. 10, 2018).  The measure was passed by the Senate on December 11 and contains a provision that protects the pets, service animals, emotional support animals and horses of victims of stalking and domestic violence.   Section 12502 entitled “Protecting Animals with Shelter,” amends certain parts of Title 18, U.S. Code, to provide protection for such animals.  Continue reading Farm Bill Protects Pets and Support Animals of Domestic Violence Victims

Seventh Circuit Rejects Horseback-Riding Injury Claims on Equine Immunity Grounds

by John M. Simpson.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently decided two consolidated appeals affirming the rejection of personal injury claims by two individuals injured while riding horseback in Wisconsin.  Both plaintiff’s claims were barred by the Wisconsin “equine immunity” statute.  Wis. Stat. § 895.481(2).  Dilley v. Holiday Acres Properties, Inc., Nos. 17-2485 & 17-2970 (7th Cir. Sept. 25, 2018).

In the first case, the plaintiff (Dilley) had been injured during a trail ride when the horse Dilley was riding interacted with another horse, reared and threw her.   Dilley, an adult in her sixties, had no horseback-riding experience and had been provided by the trail company with its most docile horse, an animal that it usually made available to children.   Affirming the summary judgment issued against Dilley by the court below, the Seventh Circuit held that Dilley’s personal injury claims fell squarely within the scope of Wisconsin’s equine immunity statute, which broadly immunizes from civil liability a person’s

“acts or omissions related to his or her participation in equine activities if a person participating in the equine activity is injured or killed as the result of an inherent risk of equine activities.”

Wis. Stat. § 895.481(2).   While Dilley argued that the defendant’s alleged negligence was avoidable and therefore not an inherent risk of horseback riding, the court disagreed:  “the statute’s enumeration of immunized risks includes the ‘potential for a person participating in an equine activity to act in a negligent manner.'”  Slip op. at 7.

Nor was the court persuaded that any of the statutory exceptions to equine immunity applied:

♦     While immunity does not apply where the provider of the horse fails to make “a reasonable effort” to determine the ability of the rider to safely ride or to safely manage the horse provided, Wis. Stat. § 895.481(3)(b), there was no dispute “that [defendants] asked Dilley about her experience, learned that she had none, and accordingly paired her with Blue, the most docile horse in their stable and the one usually assigned to small children.”  Slip op. at 10.

♦     While immunity does not cover a “willful or wanton” disregard for personal safety, Wis. Stat. § 895.481(3)(d), “[n]othing in the record supports a finding that [defendants] were aware (or should have been aware) of a ‘strong probability’ that Dilley would be harmed.”  Slip op. at 12.

♦     While immunity does not apply when the injury stems from equipment or tack that the operator who provided it knew or should have known was faulty, Wis. Stat. § 895.481(3)(a), Dilley’s only complaint was that “no one adjusted her stirrups,” not that “her stirrups — or any other equipment or tack — were defective in any way.”  Slip op. at 12.

In the second case, the plaintiff (Brown), whose case was dismissed on the pleadings, was injured in a collision with another horse during a riding lesson conducted by the defendant stable owner.  Brown brought her own horse and rode him during the lesson.   Brown argued that her case fit with in the section 895.481(3)(b) immunity exception for a defendant’s failure to safely manage the horse provided because the defendant had control over the other horse that had caused the collision.  The court rejected this argument because the defendant did not provide plaintiff with a horse:  “A horseback-riding student who brings his own horse for a lesson supplies the horse; the instructor does not.”  Slip op. at 13.  Brown in fact “pleaded herself out of the exception” by affirmatively pleading in her complaint that she “provided her own horse to be used in the private lesson.”  Id.

Justice the Horse Will NOT Have his Day in Court

by Michelle C. Pardo

In August, we updated you about a lawsuit filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in which a horse called Justice was the named plaintiff.  On September 17, 2019, an Oregon judge rejected the “creative” theory that an animal has legal capacity to sue its former owner and dismissed the case with prejudice, delivering another blow to various animal activist groups’ movement to open the courthouse doors to non-human animal litigants.  Continue reading Justice the Horse Will NOT Have his Day in Court

A Horse is a Horse (Of Course) . . .But a Plaintiff?

by: Michelle C. Pardo

“Justice” (formerly named “Shadow”) is an American Quarter Horse who had been subject to neglect by his prior owner. According to a complaint recently filed in state court in Oregon, the horse was left outside, underfed, and suffered from a variety of serious medical problems, including frostbite, trauma and infection. After complaints by a neighbor, the former owner surrendered Justice to a rescue organization back in March of 2017 and thereafter pleaded guilty to criminal neglect.  The owner also agreed to pay restitution to the equine rescue organization for the costs of Justice’s care incurred prior to the plea. Media reports indicate that the owner paid more than $3,700 in restitution, was sentenced to three years probation, and may not possess any pets or livestock for five years (and only after completing 96 hours of community service). Typically, as disturbing as such court cases may be, that is the end of a legal proceeding involving animal abuse or neglect.

Justice’s story, however, has a “Part Two”. Justice is suing his former owner for negligence and has filed a lawsuit in his new name in a county court in Oregon. Continue reading A Horse is a Horse (Of Course) . . .But a Plaintiff?