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October 5, 2013

Cass equestrians react to Conn. court's "vicious" horses ruling

Local equestrians react to Conn. court's 'vicious' horses ruling

More than 800 miles from where the fate of Connecticut equine establishments hang in the balance, Cass County equestrians say a move in Indiana like Connecticut's would create a devastating situation similar to the one horse lovers out East are bracing themselves for.

A pending Connecticut Supreme Court decision will resolve whether or not horses are vicious animals. The case stems from an incident in 2006 in which a boy had a "large chunk" removed from his right cheek after being bitten by a horse he had been petting on a visit to a farm, The Associated Press reported last month.

While a lower court decided in favor of the farm, the state appellate court overturned this ruling, stating the incident was "foreseeable" and that the horse belongs to "a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious," AP goes on to report.

Should the high court uphold the appellate court's decision, horses would not be able to be insured, forcing the closing of stables, racetracks, lesson centers and other equestrian establishments across the state.

According to the "Indiana Equine Industry Economic Impact and Health Study" published by five Purdue University professors in 2011, Indiana's equine industry employed almost 10,000 people and contributed more than $2 billion to the state's gross domestic product in 2010.

These figures would likely drop to zero should Indiana make a move similar to the one suggested by Connecticut's appellate court, a local horse owner and stable owner say.

Sheila Knight, a Cass County 4-H Association leader with the organization's Horse and Pony Club and owner of four horses of her own, said the 50-some horses in the fair every summer would likely be absent if insurance policies for the animals were no longer possible.

Because the association, its clubs and all of its activities are covered through insurance taken out by the Purdue Cass County Extension Service, uninsured horses may pose too big of a risk, she said.

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