SAN FRANCISCO — Private equine clubs are seeking to end a landmark case that could threaten the future of equestries and saddle horse racing.
In a motion filed Monday, the San Francisco County Superior Court of Appeal ruled that equestrials and saddle horses that are run by nonprofit groups, including those run by the San Bernadino County Animal Care and Control Authority, have the right to keep riding and are not liable for damage caused by riders who injure themselves.
In the majority opinion, Judge Robert Stapleton wrote that the courts have “an absolute right to prohibit the intentional and reckless conduct of horses ridden by such groups.”
The decision was an appeal from a November 2016 ruling by the California Court of Appeals, which upheld the county’s ban on private equestrous clubs.
It said the courts “have a duty to protect the public interest in equine welfare.”
The court’s opinion noted that “many equestria and horse races are run in good faith,” and that equine health and safety are paramount.
The San Francisco appeal was filed in the name of the Humane Society of the United States and the California Horse Racing Commission.
The nonprofit equestrains, or horse clubs, are considered nonprofit by the federal government and are exempt from local laws that would bar horse races from being run by religious organizations.
But Stapley wrote that while the horse clubs are not charities, they are run as a business.
He cited a case in San Francisco, where the California Supreme Court in 2010 ruled that horse clubs were not a nonprofit organization because they were not “organized for religious purposes.”
The San Bernardino County Superior District Attorney’s office and the San Bernardino Animal Care & Control Authority did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In an opinion published on Monday in the San Jose Mercury News, Judge Staplet said the case could not be dismissed because “a private organization cannot be required to maintain its horses for the public good, but it can still be held liable for the consequences of its actions.”
The plaintiffs are seeking $75 million in damages, including for horse riders, for injury to their horses.
Staple wrote that there is no clear answer about whether the horse associations are “purely for profit or for profit for profit.”
The ruling comes after the San Franciso County Board of Supervisors approved a measure last year banning horse racing in the city.
The county board had approved a ban on horse riding in January, but the bill failed to gain the 60 votes needed to pass the countywide vote.