A set of alarming photos taken in Charleston, South Carolina, has reignited discussions regarding the treatment of horses used in the horse-drawn carriage industry. Posted to Facebook, the photos show a pool of blood—allegedly from a horse who was forced to keep pulling a cart loaded with passengers after losing a shoe and injuring his hoof—and an unidentified person working quickly to clean it up.
The photos surfaced at an interesting time in Charleston. According to local media, the city had assembled a committee to look into the conditions that horses are subject to in the city’s carriage industry, and it had met as recently as August 24, with another meeting already scheduled for September. While the original intent of the committee was to look into factors such as the outdoor temperature and weight limits on loads, these photos will hopefully draw attention to the many other “occupational hazards” faced by horses forced to pull carriages each day.
This is just the latest incident in Charleston in which either a horse forced to pull a carriage or one of the riders on board has been injured. The time for change is long overdue.
Making Horses Pull Oversized Loads—Like Carriages—Is Cruel
Horses are forced to toil in all weather extremes, dodge traffic, and pound the hard pavement all day long. They may develop respiratory ailments from breathing in exhaust fumes, and they can suffer debilitating leg problems from walking on hard surfaces. They have dropped dead from heatstroke after working in scorching summer heat and oppressive humidity.
Horses are afforded no protection under the federal Animal Welfare Act, so the responsibility for keeping tabs on their welfare falls to local animal-control officials. But anti-cruelty laws provide horses with few safeguards, and many humane agencies just don’t have the resources or the time to monitor horse-drawn carriages on a regular basis. The horses can easily be overworked when profit-driven operators fail to follow regulations. And once they grow too old or weak to continue meeting the heavy demands placed on them, many are sent to slaughter.
But there is hope.
Debates similar to the one in Charleston have led to victories for horses suffering in other U.S. cities. Salt Lake City voted unanimously to pass a ban on horse-drawn carriages in 2014, a year after a horse named Jerry, who had been pulling a carriage in 98-degree heat, collapsed in the street and later died.
— PETA (@peta) November 26, 2014
What You Can Do
If you live in a city where carriage rides are still allowed, contact your local legislators to ask if they will sponsor a ban. Many cities—including Biloxi, Mississippi; Camden, New Jersey; Key West, Palm Beach, Pompano Beach, and Treasure Island, Florida; and, as mentioned above, Salt Lake City—have already banned them.
And share this story with your friends, family, and social media followers. Let them know that “nostalgia” is never an excuse for cruelty. Horses don’t belong on hectic streets in all weather extremes pulling heavy loads. These bloody images, though upsetting, could lead to a future victory in the same way that photos of Jerry did. Stay loud, and together we can make the world a better place for horses.