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When Can You Euthanize Your Insured Horse?

A major difference between mortality insurance on a horse and life insurance on a human is that equine mortality policies typically expect the possibility that the insured horse can be destroyed and payment can still follow.  Over the years, court battles have also arisen on the question of whether the owner’s intentional destruction was truly warranted.  A discussion of some of the cases follows.

In a 1977 Louisiana case, its Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiff was not entitled to recover benefits under an equine mortality policy because the horse owner violated an “intentional slaughter” exclusion in the policy when he euthanized his horse.  Interestingly, the plaintiff had veterinary support for the euthanasia decision.  Then, he submitted the claim after euthanizing the horse.  The problem was, the insured never sought advance approval from the equine insurer, Lloyd’s.  By doing so, the court held, he violated the policy’s “intentional slaughter” exclusion and he failed to show – even with the veterinary support – that the horse was “suffering” from a disease that was “incurable and so excessive that immediate destruction is necessary for humane reasons.”  [The case was Bunch v. Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, 343 So. 2d 994 (La. 1977).]

In a 1951 Vermont case, the plaintiff insured his horse with an equine mortality policy but failed to fulfill a condition in the policy that required him to produce a certificate by a qualified veterinarian that “destruction was necessary in order to immediately relieve incurable suffering.”  By all indications, the insured intentionally destroyed his insured horse and sought payment.  The insurer denied the claim.  Siding with the insurer, the court held that the failure to fulfill the policy’s veterinary certification requirement prevented the plaintiff from recovering under the policy. [The case was Abraham v. Insurance Company of North America, 117 Vt. 75, 84 A.2d 670 (Vt. 1951).]

Finally, an 1884 case stands for the proposition that an insured cannot “hasten the death of the horse” and then seek payment under an equine mortality policy.  In that case, the plaintiff owned a horse that was insured, but he euthanized his horse two hours before the policy was scheduled to lapse.  The insurer denied the claim, invoking provisions in the policy that excluded intentional slaughter.  The horse owner sued but lost.  Ruling in favor of the insurer, the Iowa Supreme Court stated, among other things, that “[t]he entire contract of insurance shows that it was not intended that defendant should be liable for any willful act which tended to hasten the death of the horse insured, but that it should be relieved from liability by such act.”  [The case was Tripp v. Northwestern Live-Stock Insurance Co., 91 Iowa 278, 59 N.W. 1 (1884).]

As attorneys for several equine insurers, we suggest that policy holders make sure to follow the provisions of an equine insurance policy carefully.

Categories: Insurance

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is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit and, and

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Julie Fershtman, author of our popular and prolific Equine Law Blog, was interviewed by the State Bar of Michigan. The interview, which called Fershtman "Lawyer-Blogger," discussed our Equine Law Blog. We truly believe that this blog is the nation's most active blog serving the equine industry on equine law topics, and we thank you for visiting it. Read more here.

Julie Fershtman’s Recent and Upcoming Equine Law Speaking Engagements Include:

National Conference on Equine Law in Louisville, Kentucky on April 29, 2020. Topic will be on Waivers/Releases of Liability Involving Minor Participants. 

U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado on December 10, 2019. Topic will be on Equine Liability. 

IRMI Emmett J. Vaughan Agribusiness Conference (“AgriCon”) in Sacramento, CA (April 2019), and Richmond, VA (June 2019) and in Des Moines, IA (September 2019), on topics of “Equine Activity Liability Acts” and “Equine Mortality Insurance Disputes.”

National Conference on Equine Law in May 2019 in Lexington, KY, on the topic of “Equine Activity Liability Act Updates” and liabilities involving hosting of equine clinics. 

Agricultural Claims Conference in Kansas City, MO, in March 2019 on topics of “Loose Livestock Liabilities.”

2018 American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL, on “Equine Mortality Coverage and Disputes.”

November 2018, American Horse Council webinar on “Equine Liability.”

Honors & Recognitions

Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has received these prestigious equine industry awards from respected equine organizations:

"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee

"Distinguished Service Award" - American Youth Horse Council

"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership

"Catalyst Award"- Michigan Horse Council

"Outstanding Achievement Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Partner in Safety Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Associate Service Award" - United Professional Horseman's Association

"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association 

What our Equine Law Services can Provide

Handling breach of contract, fraud/ misrepresentation, commercial code, and other claims involving equine-related transactions including purchases/sales, leases, mare leases/foal transfers, and partnerships.

Litigating disputes in court or through alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, facilitation).

Defending equine/farm/equestrian industry professionals,  businesses, and associations in personal injury claims and lawsuits.

Drafting and negotiating contracts for boarding, training, sales, waivers/releases, leases, and numerous other equine-related transactions.

Representing and advising insurers on  coverage and policy language as well as litigation;

Advising equine industry clubs and associations regarding management, rules, bylaws, disputes, and regulations.

Representing some of the equine industry's top trainers, competitors, stables, and associations.

Counseling industry professionals, stable managers, and individual horse owners. 


Did you know Julie Fershtman has spoken at the American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Equine Affaire, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) Annual Meeting, American Morgan Horse Association Annual Meeting, American Paint Horse Association Annual Meeting, US Pony Clubs, Inc.'s Annual Meeting, All-American Quarter Horse Congress, American Youth Horse Council Annual Meeting, American Riding Instructors Association Annual Meeting, CHA Annual Meeting, and numerous others? Consider signing her up for your convention. Contact Julie.

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