Neglected Horse Has No Standing in Court

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on September 19, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There'll be no justice for Justice.

Justice, the neglected and emaciated horse at the center of an animal neglect conviction in July 2017, cannot sue his former owner for future costs associated with the horse's ongoing care due to the neglect. An Oregon judge dismissed Justice's lawsuit, brought on behalf of Justice by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), with prejudice. Judge Knowles declared the $100,000 lawsuit may not proceed because the horse is a "non-human animal." It's quizzical what might be considered a "human animal," but perhaps in this day of advanced genetic modifications, anything is possible.

The Unjust Plight of Poor Justice

Poor Justice, a colt, had been left outside by his owner in the cold, wet, Oregonian weather without proper food and water. According to Justice's lawyer, Matthew Liebman, when Justice was found, he was 300 pounds underweight and suffered from penile frostbite as a result of his exposure to the cold, and that Justice was left untreated for months. Talk about neglect! We hear you, Justice. Shamu couldn't get standing for mistreatment either. But then again, whales don't stand.

Judge Knowles, in feeling sympathy for Justice's plight, wrote that although he could see why Justice should be able to file suit, Knowles ultimately felt that it would likely lead to a "flood of lawsuits" and therefore cases needed to be limited to "humans and human creations such as businesses and other entities."

For decades, animal rights organizations have been trying to find a way to be able to sue on behalf of an animal. Generally, the person harmed has to bring a grievance before the court. It can't be someone else doing it on behalf of the harmed party, though there are some noted exceptions to that rule, primarily in the abortion arena. To date, the ALDF has been unsuccessful, but you can't blame them for trying to sharpen their teeth on this issue.

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