Welcome to Connecticut, the state that likes horses. No matter what the courts may say.
That's how the signs could read when you enter the Nutmeg State, after yesterday's signing of a new piece of legislation specifically designed to counter a state court judgment.
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy's end run around over a year of alarmist publicity for the state in the press culminated in his celebration of the signing of a bill that he drafted himself and introduced to the legislature earlier this year.
Public Act 14-54, An Act Concerning the Liability of Owners and Keepers of Domesticated Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and Mules is reactionary legislation drafted after Appellate and Supreme Court decisions in a civil lawsuit for damages surrounding an incident involving a horse who bit a child in the face.
When a state court assigned to that case stated in a ruling that horses possess a "naturally mischievous or vicious propensity", the possible ramifications to horse owners and horse-related businesses made imaginations run wild. Would horse owners be able to obtain insurance in the state after that? And, if they could, at what cost?
The pressure was on, as horse owners and businesspeople in the state turned to their local lawmakers for protection. Governor Malloy responded by drafting the legislation, which was adopted unanimously in both the House and the Senate. From introduction to signing, the bill took less than four months to become law.
"Connecticut has a large population of horse owners and handlers, and as such, I'm happy to sign this legislation so that we can ensure their operations can continue without possible negative consequences," Governor Malloy said. "I am proud of Connecticut's growing agricultural sector, and I remain committed to the growth of this industry and to the hardworking farm families of Connecticut."
Agriculture contributes about $3.5 billion annually to Connecticut's economy and accounts for 28,000 jobs. A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report showed that the number of farms in the state increased by 22% over the last five years, leading all of New England in the growth rate. This comes despite an overall decline in farm numbers nationally.
One statistic lists Connecticut as having the most horses per square mile of any state. The state often tops the list of wealthiest states.
Malloy traveled to Bethany, Connecticut to sign--and celebrate--the bill at Locket's Meadow Farm with farmers and other stakeholders from the state's agricultural community.
Locket's Meadow Farm is a sanctuary for at-risk farm animals, many of which have been rescued from slaughter, neglect or abuse. The farm's horses and ponies are used for a riding program, offering both traditional riding lessons as well as therapeutic riding for children and also adults with varying mental and physical challenges.
"The Governor's initiative and legislative action on this matter will meaningfully protect the equine sector of the state's agricultural economy and limit the potential damage and unintended consequences of the court's decision on livestock production in Connecticut," said Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky.
Material provided by the Governor's Office was used in the preparation of this article.