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Animal Law, Ethics and Enforcement: Animals as Property and the Nonhuman Rights Project

Captive Chimps in NY: The Subject of Habeas Corpus Suit Filed by NHRP, 2013

Tommy the Chimp in Gloversville, NY

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Valerie Lang Waldin

Pet Owner or Pet Guardian?

Nonhuman Great Primates


Oregon court says animals lack capacity to sue on own behalf because of their "distinctive incapacity." Justice by and through Mosiman v. Vercher, --- P.3d ----, 321 Or.App. 439 (2022). The Oregon Court of Appeals, as a matter of first impression, considers whether a horse has the legal capacity to sue in an Oregon court. The Executive Director of Sound Equine Options (SEO), Kim Mosiman, filed a complaint naming a horse (“Justice”)as plaintiff with the Mosiman acting as his guardian, and claiming negligence against his former owner. In the instant appeal, Mosiman challenges the trial court's grant of defendant's motion to dismiss. In 2018, Mosiman filed a complaint on Justice's behalf for a single claim of negligence per se, alleging that defendant violated the Oregon anti-cruelty statute ORS 167.330(1) by failing to provide minimum care. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that a horse lacks the legal capacity to sue and the court granted dismissal. Here, the appellate court first found no statutory authority for a court to appoint a guardian for an animal because "a horse inherently lacks self-determination and the ability to express its wishes in a manner the legal system would recognize." The animal has a "distinctive incapacity" that sets it apart from humans with legal disabilities that require appointment of a legal guardian. The court reaffirmed the law's treatment  of animals as personal property and found no support in the precedent for permitting an animal to vindicate its own legal rights. The court affirmed the trial court's judgment dismissing the complaint with prejudice.