Let’s run through that again: A HORSE is suing his former owner.
That’s right. An 8-year-old horse named Justice is suing his former owner after suffering for years under the name Shadow.
During a veterinarian’s exam in 2017, the horse was 300 pounds underweight, his black coat was dotted with lice and his skin remained scabbed, according to The Oregonian.
The previous owner, who left the horse outside and underfed, pleaded guilty to criminal neglect last year.
Now, Justice — yes, the lawsuit is filed under his new name in the county court — is seeking $100,000 for veterinary care, as well as damages.
Justice’s case is the most recent example of courts recognizing animals in the court of law, according to The Washington Post.
“The few previous attempts — including a recent high-profile case over whether a monkey can own a copyright — have failed, with judges ruling in various ways that the nonhumans lacked legal standing to sue,” according to The Washington Post. “But Justice’s case, the animal rights lawyers behind it contend, is built on court decisions and statutes that give it a stronger chance, particularly in a state with some of the nation’s most progressive animal protection laws.”
“There have been a lot of efforts to try to get animals not only to be protected but to have the right to go to court when their rights are violated,” said Matthew Liebman, director of litigation at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which technically filed the suit in Justice’s name.
He said they “haven’t found the right key to the courthouse door. And we’re hopeful that this is the key.”
Liebman said horses can sue people in the state of Oregon. In fact, in 2014, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled animals can be victims of crimes by their own right, according to ABC News.
“The Oregon Legislature clearly established an anti-cruelty statute for the safety and protection of animals,” Sarah Hanneken, one of the attorneys representing Justice, told The Oregonian. “Victims of crimes can sue their abusers and animals are sentient beings that are recognized as victims under Oregon law. So with that premise, we’ve come to the conclusion that animals can sue their abusers and we’re confident of our stance in this case.”
We’ve seen this play out before. In 2013, for example, a chimpanzee named Tommy sued his owners for freedom in New York. The chimp lost the case, according to The New York Times.
More recently, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled monkeys who took selfies with a photographer’s camera didn’t own the rights to the images, The Los Angeles Times reported.