Carriage Horse Controversy Causes Veterinarian's Suspension

Two recent New York City carriage horse incidents have resulted in significant media coverage and public controversy as well as the suspension of American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) veterinarian Pamela Corey, DVM.

In the first incident a 15-year-old horse named Charlie collapsed and died on Oct. 23 while on his way to work in Central Park. According to Ian McKeever, a spokesman for the Horse & Carriage Association of New York, the draft-cross gelding with an unknown history had only been working in the city for 20 days; McKeever also reported that the carcass was handled in a manner inconsistent with standard procedures.

"The usual process is that the horse is handed over to the Health Department; they'll turn it over to the Sanitation Department, and it's taken up to Cornell for the necropsy," said McKeever. "This is the first time that a dead horse has been given to the ASPCA, which means they're in control of the story."

In the Oct. 31 ASPCA news release about the gross necropsy findings by Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Corey--director of equine veterinary services for the ASPCA's Humane Law Enforcement department--was cited as stating that "Charlie was not healthy for a career in an urban carriage horse business."

According to the news release, while the cause of death is still being investigated and final necropsy results have not yet been released, a gross necropsy report indicated that the horse was suffering from a "pronounced chronic ulceration of the stomach and a fractured tooth."

According to a Nov. 7 New York Times posting, Corey later issued a correction emphasizing that there were no signs of cruelty or neglect, and subsequently the ASPCA suspended Corey without pay.

When asked to comment on the events and suspension, the ASPCA declined to answer specific questions, citing an ongoing situation. They did provide an official statement:

We are frankly perplexed by Dr. Pamela Corey's recent statement. Our 10/31/11 statement does not imply that the carriage horse driver would be able to observe pain or ill health. Our statement was based on facts in the necropsy report as interpreted by Pamela Corey, DVM. It also was based on her personal experience monitoring the carriage horse industry over the past three years. Dr. Corey was intimately involved in drafting and ultimately reviewed, edited, and approved the final statement. We are not aware of any new facts that have come to light. The final necropsy report is pending microscopic analysis.

The ASPCA oversees New York City carriage horse welfare, but also stated in their Oct. 31 news release about Charlie's death that "The ASPCA believes that carriage horses were never meant to live and work in today's urban setting."

McKeever blamed a second carriage horse incident, in which a Standardbred named Luke fell while hitched to a carriage, on enforced stall confinement and pent up energy due to the extreme snowstorm that blanketed the Eastern Seaboard recently.

"The media has been reporting that the horse collapsed, which is completely untrue," he said. "All horses hadn't worked for six days because of the storm damage to Central Park. The horse bucked, and one of his hind legs came down on the wrong side of the shaft, which caused him to fall. We kept him quiet until the harness traces could be cut."

The horse was led back to his stall and examined by a veterinarian and cleared to return to active work.

About the Author

Lisa Kemp

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