Horse Politics in Connecticut Come with a Bite

3 years ago

Above - the author with Baby Bobby, a horse pulled from a kill pen in Tennessee several years ago that had been beaten so badly he still has PTSD from the experience. Sometimes, when he is startled, he is capable of nipping or kicking.

Hmmmm. Life gets stranger all the time. In May of this year, the Connecticut state legislature voted unanimously to pass HB 5044, which prevents domesticated horses from being classified as vicious. Who ever thought this could be a possibility? Well, in our state, it actually was a threat due to a lawsuit aimed at a small Milford barn where a 2 year-old child was bitten by a horse when his father brought him into a restricted area clearly marked with no trespassing signs. It turns out it’s so much easier (and more profitable) to blame the horse than the irresponsible father. As you can imagine, we horse people have been watching this closely for many reasons.

What’s the big deal? Let me count the ways . . . let’s think about a domesticated animal being designated as vicious, and consider what options we would have for liability insurance. Let’s see . . . nope, none, unless it came at an exorbitant price through Lloyds of London, and frankly, unless your horse wins the Triple Crown, there isn’t much money in this business. So from the backyard horse owner to the horse rescue/sanctuary with more than 40 horses (like us,) we’d be out of luck . . . if anything happened to a visitor in a horse-related accident (yes, they do happen - horses are BIG!) we’d literally lose the family farm.

Think about riding programs. What barn would risk putting riders on a horse with no liability insurance? Nope, none. There goes a primary source of income for most horse facilities. Could any of these farms then afford to support their lesson ponies? Nope, none. Would there be any market to sell these horses in a state that has classified them as vicious animals? Nope, none. That means horses going to auction, which is a very dangerous place as many of our rescued ponies could tell you if you happened to understand their language . . . So aside from one family looking to make money on a lawsuit (in which a parent ignored conspicuously placed signs stating no one was allowed near the horses yet did it anyways . . . so DUH) NO ONE would benefit.

Horse owners rejoice, horse rescues rejoice, we are spared! And as luck would have it, our farm, Locket’s Meadow, is where Governor Malloy will be for the ceremonial signing of the bill. We are excited. This is a BIG DEAL for horse people. And yet, when I tell people about this, I would have to say about 40 percent respond with a tirade about the governor. Huh?

Now, I know the entire world is currently polarized into various camps, and fundamentalists of all kinds have taken over large chunks of the planet and they have pretty definite political opinions, but this isn’t about how you feel about  a democratic governor, THIS IS ABOUT SAVING THE FAMILY HORSE FARMS IN CONNECTICUT! For us, it means we can continue to allow people to visit our animal sanctuary. For others, it means they get to keep their horses (we’d keep ours regardless, but they wouldn’t be ridden anymore, which would give us a whole lot of fat, out-of-shape ponies.) This is not about guns, taxes, cost-of-living or the economy . . . but you would never know it by the responses I hear.

Look, for those of us who have animals, this administration has been very proactive. We are lucky enough to already have laws in place that ensure insurance companies can’t discriminate against homeowners with so-called “vicious dogs.” But last year, the legislature was kind enough to also pass a bill that bans municipalities from adopting breed-specific dog ordinances, thank you very much Governor Malloy for sparing our family pit bulls from becoming potential contraband! And for goodness sakes, even Republicans have pit bulls for pets! I know a few of you!

So yes, we will continue to be VERY EXCITED that a governor who is a friend to dogs and horses is coming to our farm to sign a bill (which he sponsored!) that has made the state of Connecticut a safe place to be a horse owner. And he didn’t do it to make up for the guns, the economy or anything else . . . he did it because it was the right thing to do and it kept an entire family-owned and oriented industry from collapsing right here in our state.

I don’t know what anyone else in going to do to celebrate that day, but I am making an ENORMOUS pot of vegetarian chili and a chocolate cake. Maybe even cornbread. Yes, I share and I don't give a flying fig what political party you are a member of as long as you are nice.

And if Governor Malloy wants a tour of the farm, he can have one. But I don’t think I will introduce him to Bobby . . . he bites (long, ugly story . . .) As much as I love irony, I think I’ll draw the line right there . . .

 Kathleen Schurman and her husband David own Locket's Meadow, a farm animal rescue and sanctuary in Connecticut. She is also an author and journalist and yes, the rumors are true . . . a full-size pig does sleep in their kitchen every night.

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