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Rick Cupp on Seeking Justice for Justice the Horse

The Washington Post and NPR

August 20, 2018  | 2 min read

Professor Richard L. Cupp's opinion on animal law was sought for a Washington Post article titled, "Seeking justice for Justice the horse: Can a neglected animal sue?" and a related interview on the NPR program, AirTalk with Larry Mantle.  A lawsuit filed in an Oregon county court in the name of Justice, an 8-year-old American quarter horse, seeks the cost of veterinary care and pain and suffering damages from his previous owner. Professor Cupp argues that expanding animal protections should be accomplished through legislation instead of granting animals legal standing.

Excerpt via The Washington Post:

Some animal law experts warn that Justice’s lawsuit is extreme, even dangerous. Richard L. Cupp, a Pepperdine University law professor who has been critical of the chimpanzee personhood cases, said he thinks the horse case has even more radical implications.

Allowing Justice to sue could mean any animal protected under Oregon’s anti-cruelty statute — a class that includes thousands of pets, zoo animals and even wildlife — could do the same, he said. (Livestock, lab animals, hunting targets, rodeo animals and invertebrates are exempted.) If this approach were adopted elsewhere, Cupp said, a stampede of animal litigation could overrun courts.

“Any case that could lead to billions of animals having the potential to file lawsuits is a shocker in the biggest way,” Cupp said. “Once you say a horse or dog or cat can personally sue over being abused, it’s not too big a jump to say, ‘Well, we’re kind of establishing that they’re legal persons with that. And legal persons can’t be eaten.’ ”

Cupp emphasized that he supports Oregon’s progressive animal cruelty laws and rulings. But legislation is a more reasonable way of expanding animal protections, he said. Justice’s case, for example, could be addressed through a law requiring an abuser to cover an animal’s future care. “This would not be bad for society,” Cupp said. “We do need to evolve. We’re not doing enough to protect animals.”

Cupp points to a Connecticut law as one that maintains an important distinction between animals and people. It focuses on “the interests of justice,” not the animals’ interests.

The complete article may be found here

The NPR interview may be found here (August 16 episode, Professor Cupp at 1:23:50)