Oregon horse sues former abusive owner for economic damages and costs of care

Photo shows Justice the horse at the time it was rescued in March 2017. Justice was 300 pounds underweight, had a prolapsed penis, lice and rain rot. Photo courtesy Animal Legal Defense Fund

CORNELIUS, Ore. – A horse, represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, is suing its former abusive owner for $100,000 in economic damages and its future costs of care.

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Justice, an 8-year-old horse, is suing Gwendolyn Vercher to recover the costs of its ongoing medical care and its pain and suffering.

If Justice wins the case, it will be the first lawsuit to establish that animals have a legal right to sue their abusers in court.

According to the lawsuit, a concerned neighbor in Cornelius suggested Vercher take the horse to be examined by a veterinarian on March 7, 2017. The veterinarian determined the horse was emaciated and its penis had prolapsed and could not retract because it was so swollen and heavy from frostbite injuries.

The veterinarian determined the horse needed to be housed in a stall or rehomed.

On March 16, 2017, Sound Equine Options rescued Justice from Vercher and transported the horse to Eagle Fern Equine Hospital in Estacada for urgent veterinary care and hospitalization.

A veterinarian determined Justice was 300 pounds underweight. Due to the horse’s severe emaciation, the doctor had to wait two days until Justice was healthy enough to be sedated for a more thorough examination.

During the thorough examination on March 18, 2017, the doctor inspected the severity of the horse’s prolapsed penis and also found it suffered from lice and rain rot, a bacterial skin infection that irritates a horse’s hair and skin and can result in a painful sheet of scabbing.

By March 26, 2017, Justice had begun gaining weight and its energy level was improved.

Doctors believe Justice will require surgery for treatment in the future.

On July 10, 2017, Vercher pleaded guilty to first-degree animal neglect. She agreed to pay restitution to Sound Equine Options for the costs of Justice’s care expenses that accrued prior to July 6, 2017.

However, Vercher failed to pay the restitution by the deadline of August 10, 2017.

On August 22, 2017, Justice’s guardian, Kim Mosiman, created the Justice Equine Trust to help pay for the horse’s medical needs for the rest of its life. But, the lawsuit will also ensure the medical expenses are paid for going forward.

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