Oregon Judge Throws Out Lawsuit Filed By Horse Against Former Owner

A horse is a horse of course, but he can't be a plaintiff and sue his neglectful owner - which is apparently something that needed to be said. 

A judge in Oregon tossed out the lawsuit filed on behalf of a horse named Justice (yes, you read that right) against his owner over allegations of animal neglect on Tuesday.

Washington County Circuit Court Judge John Knowles issued his decision saying the lawsuit brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund will not be allowed to proceed based on the fact the horse was a "non-human animal." 

"The court grants with prejudice defendant’s motion to dismiss based on a lack of standing for Justice the horse," the ruling stated. "The court finds that a non-human animal such as Justice lacks the legal status or qualifications necessary for the assertion of legal rights and duties in a court of law."

In a blog post on the ADLF's website, they explain how the lawsuit came about and why they were suing Justice's former owner after a neighbor spotted the horse looking underfed and emaciated. 

The neighbor called Oregon Horse Rescue, asking them to help the clearly suffering horse. A few days later, Justice’s then-owner, at the urging of this neighbor, took the horse to be examined by a vet. Justice was transferred to another facility for urgent hospitalization.

Thanks to the extended neglect, Justice needed a lot of care, and the veterinarian bills began piling up. 

Justice was 300 pounds underweight and afflicted with lice and rain rot, a skin infection common in neglected horses. His genitals were severely injured due to frostbite and, despite treatment, may still require partial amputation.

The ADLF attempted to sue Justice's owner, Gwendolyn Vercher, for $100,000 in economic damages and future costs for the care on the horse's behalf. 

Vercher called the lawsuit "outrageous" in an interview with ABC News. She pleaded guilty to first degree animal neglect in July 2017. Per her plea agreement, Vercher agreed to pay restitution to Sound Equine Options, the rescue organization that took the horse in, for costs associated with the horse's care prior to July 6, 2017. 

The judge said in the ruling that the case would open up a "flood" of lawsuits filed by "animals." 

"There are profound implications of a judicial finding that a horse, or any non-human animal for that matter, is a legal entity that has the legal right to assert a claim in a court of law," the court wrote. "Such a finding would likely lead to a flood of lawsuits whereby non-human animals could assert claims we now reserve just for humans and human creations such as business and other entities."

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