This post was reviewed by Nicholas A. Battaglia, Esq., an attorney licensed in New York and New Jersey. He is owner and legal content writer for a law practice marketing firm and a realty group focusing on new construction builds in upstate New York, where he lives with his lovely wife and his counselor-at-bark Flora, a mixed breed rescue.
Vicious propensities and horses: nothing to nay about. Generally, even if you are not at fault, as long as you’re the horse or other domestic animals’ owner, you will be liable for the damage it caused. Provided further, you have the knowledge or at least have known of such animal’s vicious propensity.
In this article, we’ll understand more about the vicious propensities of horses. Also, we’ll discuss your liability as an owner as well as the causes and cures of these characteristics. So, you should read each section religiously. I’m sure you will be enlightened after reading this article!
What Is Vicious Propensity?
It is the propensity to commit any action that may be detrimental to another person’s safety or property in a certain circumstance. Essentially, it is a proclivity to cause harm to another. To further explain, it’s the animal’s inherent tendency to act in a way that can harm either a person or property.
Indeed, the behavior alone is not dubbed ferocious or dangerous, as long as it shows an inclination to commit an act that can result in another’s harm. Say, for instance, per New York law, you can recover from damages from the owner due to a domestic animal attack.
Such a statement is true if the owner has observed that his animal previously manifests vicious propensities. Unfortunately, you can’t sue the owner for simple negligence, such as letting the animal run around the place. On a positive note, the owner has a strict liability if the requisite, as mentioned earlier, is present.
For instance, a court may find that there is a vicious propensity when the dog constantly and aggressively barks at the mailman—but not always. Wait, there’s more to that! You can establish an animal’s viciousness by showing that it has bitten or at least attempted to bite someone. Or it can be shown through your neighbor’s testimony.
A Case Showing The Horse’s Vicious Propensities
Vicious propensities and horses: nothing to nay about.
For many years, the vicious propensities of horses, especially as a group, are not actionable. These acts don’t fall within the definition of vicious propensity. For that reason, injuries and damages due to the acts of horses cannot be compensated. And usually, these acts were just referred to as “acting like horses.”
In Saratoga Country, New York, however, its appellate court held that the horse’s victim could pursue a negligence claim found in the common law. In case it’s successful, the horse’s owner would be liable, and he may be exposed to further lawsuits and verdicts.
Just like in the case of Robert Carey v. Burton Schwab that ruled the owner liable for the injury caused by the victim. The defendant and two other women were riding their horses going to a local tavern. While in there, two of the horses were freed to the road; so, they run down the road.
When the plaintiff saw what’s happening, he immediately got in his vehicle and pulled it in front of the horses to corral them.
Indeed, the horses stopped and defendants collected the reigns. They gave them to plaintiff to hold so they could get the other horse. But, the horse was scared and spooked, and head butted plaintiff.
This act leads the plaintiff to lose consciousness, so he fell to the ground. Unfortunately, he was then stepped and dragged on. Due to this incident, Carey sued the owner of the horse. However, he believed he had to establish vicious propensities and the owner’s knowledge regarding this.
The defendant sought the dismissal of the case, arguing that he doesn’t have prior knowledge of his horse’s vicious propensities or at least a history of such behavior. Also, testimonies are attesting that the horse was docile and calm.
However, there was a line of cases regarding pure negligence in maintaining domestic animals. This includes ensuring that animals are well secured. If they are not, they can cause serious injury.
The Appellate Division found that the defendants did not have vicious propensities of the horse, but still were negligent in securing the horse. Enough with this case. In the next section, we’ll understand why horses tend to be vicious.
Vicious Horses Explained
Most probably, horses that serve as pets are confined in spaces so they won’t get loose quickly. Do you know that confinement is linked to numerous behavioral problems?
Well, there’s no doubt if it’s answered in the affirmative. They are free-ranging animals that want to wander around; in fact, it was shown that more than 60% of their day are allocated for foraging.
And the remaining time is for them to rest by lying down or standing. Sometimes, they are also fond of grooming or engaging in any other joyful activities.
Even under barn circumstances, you know that horses tend to eat small meals, but many times a day. And yes, they’re very socialite. They want to interact with others, improving their entire well-being.
If you isolate them, it will lead to various developmental issues. Unfortunately, it may result in vicious propensities that can make you liable as the owner.
That’s why if you love your pet and you want to be stress-free from legal liability, you should know how to manage these behavioral problems.
Aggression Of Horses
Undoubtedly, it’s common for horses to be aggressive. They would neck wrestle, chase, bite, kick, and show other threats. There are also many aggression signs such as the following:
- Threats to kick
- Rapid tail movements
- Retracted lips
- Ears flattened backward
- Head bowing
Furthermore, your horse may also be submissive. You will know if it manifests the following:
- Clamping the tail
- Lowering the head and neck
- Turning away
Anyway, let’s further elaborate.
Aggression towards people
If your pet horse felt isolated in a small space, you might have observed how aggressive it should be. So, yes, this kind of behavior can usually be seen installs. Also, aggression to people includes induced pain, fear, related to dominance, sexual, and learned.
Whenever horses play with each other, they might display signs of aggression such as biting and kicking. And it is true in young ones. Don’t worry, though. They are benign to fellow animals but not to men. Just like dogs, they can be dangerous to others too.
Similar to how you deal with other problems, you also have to identify the main cause and remove it to manage the aggression.
Some owners would apply positive reinforcement or conduct extensive training to establish control over the animal. These actions should be done with counterconditioning and desensitization.
Aside from that, it’s crucial to manage the horse’s environment. It should have an excellent environment, such as an abundance of water, food, and space.
In case you have horses manifesting dominance aggression, make sure to separate them from the others; they might attack them, especially those near them.
Horse Injuries And Owner’s Liability
There are various ways how horse injuries occur. It is called equine-related injuries; it happens when you get injured by a horse, whether your family member or friends own such horse. The same is true when you have rented a horse through a stable.
Most of the time, this injury results when you fall off the horse. Other times, it occurs when you’re kicked or if you’ve not worn a protected gear. You’re lucky if the injury is just mild.
How about if the injury incurred is severe? Who would pay the expenses? What’s worse is when the injury resulted in death.
Yes, horses can be domestic animals. But, take note of their instincts. They can show vicious propensities whenever they’re under stress. In this section, you’ll understand when you will be liable as a horse owner in case you’re animal has inflicted injury to another.
Are you liable for horse injuries?
Your liability as an owner is dependent on the injury’s circumstances. If you’re the horse owner, you will most likely become the defendant of the case. If you’re the victim, you can sue not only the owner but also the instructor or the stable where you’ve rented.
As an owner, you are also protected by the law. However, you should take note of the appropriate law in your place. Generally, the owner is freed from liability if the following is shown:
- That the injured party ignored warnings;
- That the injured party gave the provocation; or
- That the injured party trespassed the property of the owner.
In case the injury occurred during a riding lesson or a trail ride, you may have signed a waiver of liability prior to such. In which case, some, if not all, of the liability of the owner may have been waived. As the injured, your ability to sue may have been limited.
Liability Not Automatic In Law
Under House Bill No. 5044 of the State of Connecticut, it must be shown that the horse possesses a vicious propensity; it’s essential to recover damages from the owner or keeper due to personal injury caused therein.
Furthermore, the law provides for a presumption that the horse does not possess such propensity; it follows that such horse is presumed to not engage in behavior that could result in human injury.
However, such presumption is rebuttable, such as if the horse has previously shown a vicious propensity that could result in personal injury. This behavior has come to notice or knowledge of the owner or keeper. Take note that all of these are true in any civil ac