A horse named Justice sues former owner for more than $100,000 for neglect

Animal Legal Defense Fund(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- A horse in Oregon is suing his former owner for neglect.

According to the caretakers for Justice, the horse, former owner Gwendolyn Vercher left the stallion outside during the winter without adequate food and shelter, causing him to suffer severe injuries.

"He was extremely emaciated -- about 300 pounds below body weight for a horse -- and most significantly, he suffered from penile frostbite as a result of his exposure to the cold and that was left untreated for months," Matthew Liebman, Justice's lawyer from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, told ABC News’ Brad Mielke during an interview for ABC News’ daily podcast, "Start Here."

At the time Vercher was caring for the horse, his name was Shadow. She said that when she put him up for adoption, she fully disclosed his injuries and conditions. And, when the new caretakers took her to court, Vercher said she paid for his care as part of her guilty plea.

"I took a plea deal," Vercher told Mielke.

She said she hadn't heard about the horse's lawsuit till the podcast had contacted her.

"It's outrageous," she said.

Lawyers for Justice are seeking more than $100,000, which would go to a trust that would be used for his veterinary care.

Liebman said that horses can sue people, particularly in the state of Oregon. In 2014, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that animals can be victims of crime in their own right.

"The way we see it, animals already have legally protected rights," Liebman said.

However, in some cases, animals have not necessarily come out on top.

In 2013, a chimpanzee named Tommy sued his owners for freedom in New York and lost the case. And recently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the adorable macaque monkeys that took selfies with a photographer's camera did not own the rights to the images.

Liebman, however, is hopeful that this time, Justice will prevail.

"I do think this case is part of a growing trend, both legally and socially, to recognize animals as sentient beings with legal rights that ought to be respected," he said.

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