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Conn. court to decide whether horses are innately 'vicious' animals

Two wild horses fight during the 400-year-old horse festival called
Two wild horses fight during the 400-year-old horse festival called "Rapa das bestas" (Shearing of the Beasts) in the village of Sabucedo, some 40 kms from Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, 09 July 2007. Hundreds of wild horses were rounded up from the mountains and directed into an outdoor pen to be sheared and marked.

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Connecticut's Supreme Court is currently tackling an unusual question: are horses an inherently vicious animal?

If the justices say "yes," Connecticut would become the first state in the nation to brand all horses with a  "naturally vicious species" label. It could have big implications for the state's multi-million dollar horse industry, from breeding to boarding. 

It all stems from a 2006 case in which a young boy was bitten in the face by a horse at Glendale Farms in Milford, Conn. He was trying to pet Scuppy the horse when it stuck its neck out of its pen and bit, "removing a large chunk of it."

In February 2012, a mid-level Appellate Court overturned a lower court's 2010 dismissal of the case, saying that farm owner Timothy Astriab's testimony demonstrated that Scuppy belongs to "a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious."

Despite not having any knowledge of Scuppy biting anyone in the past, he said that it was common for horses to bite if provoked. 

The judges ruled that the boy's injury was preventable and that Scuppy's owners did not do enough to prevent the horse from hurting someone. If the decision is allowed to stand, it could impact the state's sizable equestrian industry. 

Horse farmers and equine enthusiasts, who cite 2005 statistics saying that the horse industry contributes about $221 million a year to the state's economy in boarding, training, lessons and breeding businesses, are asking the state Supreme Court to overturn the Appellate Court's decision.

The Connecticut Farm Bureau and Connecticut Horse Council filed a friend of the court brief saying that under common law viciousness generally is judged individually according to age, breed and gender, not as an entire species.

"They say it's like pit bulls. Some are very kind, sweet dogs, others have been known to maul people and other animals," said AP reporter Stephen Singer, on Take Two. "They argue that you can't just brand the entire species of horses vicious."

The Supreme Court's ruling is expected to come down in early 2014. 

Associated Press contributed to this report.