Expert Opinion

Letters to editor – NY Times April 19, 1989 --- Holly Cheever, DVM, Voorheesville, NY

To the Editor:

My eye could not help being caught by “Proper Care is Given to Every Carriage Horse in New York City” by Henry M. Rogers (letter, April 17), since I know that nothing could be farther from the truth. Mr. Rogers is worth every penny Charteau Stables pays him to promote its image.

I have been working with the Carriage Horse Action Committee and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals since last December as their expert veterinary consultant. I have seen abuses in the horses’ stabling and working conditions that greatly exceeded my jaundiced expectations – jaundiced because I have followed mistreatment of these animals in animal welfare publications for years and have been astounded that the city makes no apparent effort to eliminate or improve this horrendous blight to its image.

My credentials include a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell, and I combine a lifetime of equine experience with veterinary practice, including track, show, pleasure and draft horses. I have inspected all six stables housing the carriage horses and examined the horses in harness in front of the Plaza. The following is what I have seen and reported to the ASPCA, Mayor Edward I. Koch and key City Council people.

The majority of the horses area housed in unsafe, unhealthy and inhumane conditions. Most of the stables are firetraps, housing horses on second and third floors, in stalls too narrow for their occupants and on pitted floors that permit pooling of urine and manure. Stall cleaning and bedding seem nonexistent, ventilation and light are grossly inadequate, and access to water is rare, contributing to the dehydration and heatstroke suffered by Whitey last summer.

Many of the animals are filthy, ungroomed and underfed. Their health is often impaired by age, poor care and a legacy of injuries as “breakdowns” from the racetrack or Amish farming communities. With few exceptions, they are driven by individuals who show little knowledge of equine health, soundness, proper care or harnessing (not to mention manners). The horses work as many as 70 hours a week in extremes of temperature and hazardous conditions, often without sufficient water or veterinary care. As for the few drivers who seemed courteous and knowledgeable, I applaud their concern and hope they will form the core of an upgraded carriage-horse trade in which the animals are given protection and respect.

I can say that Helene G. Goldberg gives an accurate description of the carriage-horse industry (letter March 27) while Mr. Rogers shows abysmal ignorance of equine matters (where does he get his information on feral horses?) or an intentional effort to cover up animal abuse. I appeal to New Yorkers to back the work done by the overextended animal protection agencies by urging their legislators to support the proposed carriage horse legislation (Intro 1038) in the City Council. Please save these animals from lives of abuse.

Holly Cheever, Voorheesville, NY

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