On March 26, the Connecticut Supreme Court skirted the issue of whether horses are by nature a vicious species, ruling instead that horse owners and keepers have “a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent injuries that are foreseeable because the animal belongs to a species or breed that is naturally inclined to cause such injuries, and that the owner may be held liable for negligence if he or she fails to take such reasonable steps and an injury results.” This duty would result in court decisions on a case-by-case basis.

The case stems from 2006 when a toddler was bitten by a horse on property belonging to the animal's owner, Timothy Astriab, when the child’s father held him up to pet the horse over the fence, despite posted signs asking visitors not to pet or feed the pastured horses. Initially, in 2010, a court in New Haven sided with the horse owner. But an appellate court overturned that ruling in February 2012, resulting in the Supreme Court case decided Wednesday.

Fred Mastele, acting president of the Connecticut Horse Council (CHC), expressed concern about how the decision will affect the Astriab family and horse owners in general. Mastele's concerns include what steps the family should have taken to protect people from their horses; how owners and keepers are expected to protect the public from their horses; if new legislation would be enacted regarding fencing, public activities, transporting horses through Connecticut, requirements for trainers and lesson horses, horse camps, and therapeutic riding programs.

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