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This past week, the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, and Oregon Dairy Farmers Association partnered to draft a friend of the court brief on precedent setting litigation pending in the Oregon Court of Appeals.

The case squarely addresses whether a horse has a right to sue his owner in court for damages relating to the horse’s neglect. Oregon Farm Bureau called the case (Justice, an American Quarter Horse v. Gwendolyn Vercher) an attempt by the Animal Legal Defense Fund to set precedent in Oregon that animals have legal personhood, including the right to sue humans in court.

“This case could open the door to expansive and significant litigation regarding the ability to own and manage livestock, produce meat or dairy products, participate in rodeos or FFA, and even have working dogs,” the Farm Bureau said in a statement. “It could even subject pet owners to private rights of action and allow activist groups to bring lawsuits under the guise of animals seeking to vindicate nonexistent rights.”

The Oregon Farm Bureau said if successful, this case puts the livestock industry and rural Oregon at risk. Oregon would become the first state in the country to grant animals legal personhood, which the nonprofit organization said would have a profound impact on our society and legal system. The organizations say they got involved to ensure that the court understands the history and context of Oregon’s animal welfare statutes and to ensure the Court understands the expansive, far reaching implications of this case for the livestock industry.

“To be clear, the facts of this case were abhorrent, and the defendant was rightfully prosecuted for the neglect of her horse,” the Farm Bureau statement said. “However, Oregon law already has severe consequences for those who abuse and neglect animals and there is a mechanism for those who rescue neglected animals to be compensated for their care.”

The Oregon Farm Bureau said this case is not about that, calling it an effort by animal rights activists to pull the ultimate thread in a longstanding effort to unravel and halt livestock operations in Oregon.

“We will continue to stand strong to protect the livestock industry from the significant precedent set by this case,” the Farm Bureau said.

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