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Note:  Holly Cheever, DVM  is a world renowned equine veterinarian who has consulted many municipalities on the carriage horse issue, including the ASPCA in the late 1980s.  It came to our attention recently that the carriage industry calls her a "cat and dog" vet in trying to denigrate her credentials as an equestrian veterinarian..     

This is the truth:   

As so many spouses do, several years ago Dr. Cheever left her equine/dairy practice in Cortland County  behind to follow her husband's job to the Capital District, which is a more urban environment. Currently her work for a "small animal" veterinary practice - The Animal Hospital -  is her part-time main income.  However, she still has an equine consultation practice that she operates  from her home and has horses in her care on her mini-sanctuary.     

She is also a published author on equine cruelty (See the CV addendum below after her testimony);  a consultant on horse cruelty cases for NYS law officers all over the state; she lectures on equine abuse for veterinary schools; serves as an inspector of equine facilities for the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.     

In addition to her lifetime exposure to horses, inlcuding the training and driving of carriage horses, Dr. Cheever continues to have daily contact with them..  

Horses remain a strong element in her professional life.  

 Testimony Submitted to the City Council on Consumer Affairs 

March 12, 2010       

Holly Cheever, DVM   
665 Clipp Rd   
Voorheesville, NY 12186    :

To: Members of the Consumer Affairs Committee   
      New York City Council

RE: INTRO 92    

Sponsor: Council member Annabel Palma      

Hearing date: March 12, 2010    
City Hall

I would like to submit this testimony in lieu of my appearance to testify at your hearing today.  To introduce myself, I am an equine veterinarian, educated at Harvard University and at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell, with a lifetime of experience in horse management, including the driving of carriage horses.  Since 1988, I have been the primary equine adviser for 2 states and, to date, 18 municipalities (including New York) that have sought knowledgeable assistance either to ban carriage horses from operating in their cities or to devise protective codes and legislation to prevent the all-too-common animal abuse that occurs in this industry. In particular, I was very involved with the campaign initiated by the American Society for the Protection of Animals and the New York-based Carriage Horse Action Committee between 1988 and 1996, calling for a ban of the use of carriage horses on NYC streets.   

To begin with, I would like to state unequivocally that I don't believe that horse-drawn carriages and motor vehicles should share the same roadways due to the distressing history of injuries and deaths (both equine and human) that have occurred across the country due to carriage-car collisions; New York has seen 3 carriage horse deaths since 2006 alone.  There is no way that cities with their exhaust fumes, hard road surfaces, and busy traffic patterns can provide a humane (as opposed to merely survivable) environment for a carriage horse. For that reason, I always recommend that an urban ban against city carriage horse rides be implemented, unless the horses can be restricted to a park or other area where they will not be competing with motor vehicles for road space.  If a ban is not possible due to the tenacity of an entrenched tourist industry, then detailed protective regulations and the ability to enforce them are essential.  In the case of New York, the only safe place for this tourist attraction would be to restrict them to Central Park. Realistically, the Commissioner of the Park has always expressed adamant opposition to this plan, so I would prefer by far to see a complete ban due to New York’s dense population, busy traffic patterns, climate, and the high-rise corridors in Manhattan that exacerbate these health and safety hazards.   

When reviewing the status of an urban carriage horse trade, one must remember that these animals are frequently not in the best of condition, nor are they always handled by the most knowledgeable horsemen/women.   Expert carriage drivers who drive as a vocation or for the love of their animals are not the ones who are involved in these urban carriage tourist trades.  A topnotch breeder/driver would NEVER subject their prized animals to these conditions:  I can furnish names upon request of driving and show judging horse experts who would agree emphatically with this statement.   

New York City has inherent characteristics that make the safe handling of urban carriage horses impossible. They are exposed to such health hazards as:   

#1 RESPIRATORY DISEASE:  horses working in traffic lanes are constantly nose-to-tailpipe, and show corresponding respiratory impairment (please note the enclosed discussion of Dr. Roszel's study of New York City’s carriage horses and their respiratory problems).   

#2 LAMENESS is a major problem for horses who must pound the city streets' unnaturally hard, concussive surfaces, especially since the majority is not given adequate farrier care and since many horses come into this industry with preexisting injuries or arthritis incurred in their previous uses on race tracks or Amish farms.   

#3 HEAT PROSTRATION is seen in many cities in the northern temperate zone and has been, historically,  a leading cause of death in the carriage horse populations of New York, Atlanta, and Boston.  Signs of imminent heat stress include flared nostrils, brick-red mucous membranes, trembling, and a lack of sweat production on a hot day.  Horses should be kept off the streets when the combined temperature-humidity index (the THI discussed in the enclosures, derived from the sum of the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit and the percent humidity) exceeds 140; as the THI increases, so does their risk for heat stress.  Since New York City's asphalt surfaces have reached temperatures of 200 degrees Fahrenheit as reported in the New York Times, keeping horses sufficiently cool on hot summer days becomes impossible.   

The issue of safe temperature ranges for the horses is typically the most contentious problem for city councils in devising adequate protection for them. In the critical temperature range of 89 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit, a large horse, particularly one of the draft breeds, is greatly challenged in its ability to dissipate its body heat into an increasingly warm environment, especially if high humidity is a factor.  A horse can lose 8-10 gallons of fluid with exercise in a hot environment, but if the air is saturated by high humidity, cooling by evaporation cannot occur.  If the horse is dehydrated and cannot produce sweat, anhydrosis ensues and can be life-threatening.  This particular temperature is in a very sensitive danger range for working horses--please remember that the temperature must be recorded at ground level to determine the exact environment that the horse is encountering ( the temperature as recorded by the U.S. Weather Bureau is taken typically from a site well above ground level—a Cornell Horticulture study showed that the ground temperature can be as much as 45 degrees higher than the temperature recorded by the Weather Bureau.) I recommend a top value of 89 degrees F. in humid environments, and can produce equine physiologists and published articles discussing safe ranges for the prevention of heat prostration. New York’s top temperature of 90 degrees F., coupled with its high humidity in the summer, pose a definite threat to carriage horse health and safety.

The low end of the scale should include a wind chill factor for the obvious reason that all mammals are more susceptible to hypothermia when wind chill is present. As mentioned, not all horses in the typical urban carriage horse trade are in “mint condition”, and thus should not be outdoors below a safe limit of 26 degrees F. with the wind chill, and would require the use of blankets below 32 degrees F. when standing. I am concerned that New York’s bottom limit of 18 degrees F. is too low, and I doubt these horses are all blanketed in such temperatures.

Practically speaking, since New York City has many days per annum in which the temperature/humidity is either too high or too low for the horses’ safety, a ban altogether is preferable to a burdensome system attempting to regulate when the horses must be removed from the streets.   

#4 "SPOOKING" can happen to even the best trained and well-mannered horse.  Their evolution as herbivores (i.e. prey animals) has conditioned them to bolt first and consider the situation later, dictating the need for the driver to be constantly in contact with the horse's head, whether by holding the reins securely from the carriage box or by standing at the horse's head with the reins in hand.  The driver must also learn to anticipate potentially threatening stimuli in order to control the horse before it attempts to flee in panic, which is unlikely when the drivers are novices. I have heard New York carriage owners/drivers claim repeatedly that their horses are “spook-proof”—there is no such thing. As you can well imagine and have witnessed repeatedly, the potential for injury is enormous and represents an extreme liability risk for the City as the licensing agent.   

    In addition to the stressors, dangers, and welfare concerns cited above, the problem of disposing of the horses once they have outlived their useful lives has always been a problem for this industry: too many horses were sold back to the horse auctions (“killer sales”) so that the last bit of income could be squeezed from them. Though now the operators claim to take them to retirement homes, I have yet to see any evidence that the industry actually uses such equine sanctuaries. One crucial part of Intro 92, lacking in any of the other bills before you today, is the provision #17-330: Disposition of Licensed Horses, which would ensure that the horses employed in this industry would be assured of a humane end. Surely, this is the least that we owe them after their challenging and hazardous lives in New York’s carriage horse trade.   

    During the several years that I inspected New York’s carriage horses on the street and in their stables at the request of the ASPCA and the Carriage Horse Action Committee, I noted repeated violations of basic humane equine husbandry and care principles, as follows:   

·    The horses were not given adequate water during their work shifts since no public water is readily available to them, and most were denied the basic presence of water buckets in their stalls.

·    Many horses were afforded inadequate hoof care and shoeing, adding to their likelihood of developing or exacerbating lameness.

·    The stables were distressingly inadequate, with poor hygiene, temperature control, and ventilation. Also, most horses were confined to tie stalls rather than to box stalls, which means that their entire lives as NY City carriage horses keeps them restricted to narrow spaces—between the carriage shafts while working and between their stall walls when resting, with never a chance to turn around comfortably or roll or scratch their itching hides after the harness is removed. Bedding was nonexistent or grossly inadequate.

·    Many showed harness sores that should require them to be removed from work till healed; however, there was never sufficient enforcement of this precept, and many horses worked with infected and inflamed sores.

·    No opportunity for “turn-out” was provided since there is no room for such a space in the stable areas. Therefore, the horses had no opportunity to perform natural movements or experience normal socialization, so necessary for a herd animal, for their entire lives in this industry.     

In conclusion, I hope that you will support Intro 92 as providing the most humane protection for these horses. While I greatly appreciate the provision of Intro 86, which would replace the horses with electric vintage cars for a tourist attraction, I cannot support a bill that prolongs the suffering of New York City’s carriage horses by permitting a slow phase-out period without a mandated retirement program for the horses to protect them from the grim realities of the auction ring

If I may be of any assistance in trying to remove and save these horses from their  inherently hostile (to an equine) urban environment, please do not hesitate to call me.   Thank you for your attention in this matter.


Holly Cheever, DVM



Holly Cheever, DVM
665 Clipp Road
Voorheesville, New York 12186
(518) 765-4213

EDUCATION:    New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University,
D.V.M. 1980, Class Rank #1.
University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School (externship at New Bolton Center, February - March 1980).
University of Kentucky, 1975-1976 (non-degree candidate, pre-veterinary
Harvard University, A.B. 1971, Summa cum Laude.

Phi Beta Kappa, Iota Chapter, 1970
The Jane Miller Prize for Physiology, 1978
The Mary Louise Moore Prize for Bacteriology, 1978
The Phi Zeta Award for Best Academic Record, 1978
Vice President of the Alpha Chapter of Phi Zeta Society, 1979
The Upjohn Award for Proficiency in Small Animal Medicine, 1980
The Horace K. White Prize for Highest Academic Record, 1980
First Class Marshall, 1980

Humane Society of the United States for Prosecuting/Investigating Animal
Cruelty Cases (1995)
Certificate of Appreciation from the New York State Troopers for Outstanding
Service in the Prosecution of Cruelty Cases (1993)
New York State Humane Association: 1991 Veterinarian of the Year
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Certificate of Appreciation for Improving the Conditions of New York’s Carriage Horses (10/90)
New York State Humane Association: Tribute for Special Veterinary Service for the Benefit of Wildlife and for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (10/13/90)
Hazel Eddy Memorial Award, Animal Protection Foundation of Schenectady (6/90)
Certificate of Appreciation, New York State Humane Association (9/89)

ORGANIZATIONS: Member, American Veterinary Medical Association (1976-Present)
Member, Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (1980-2008; Vice President        1993-2008)
Member, Leadership Council of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, 2008-present)
Member, NYS Veterinary Medical Society (1980-Present)
Member, Capital District Veterinary Medical Society (1983-Present)
Member, American Association of Equine Practitioners (1988-Present)
Member, Alumni Council on Unrestricted Funding to NYS College of Veterinary Medicine (1989-1999)
Instructor, Living Earth Learning Project (1992-1999)
Advisory Board Member, NYS Humane Association (1992-present; Vice President, 1996-Present)
Advisory Board Member, Food Animal Concerns Trust (1989-1995)
Member, Advisory Council to NYS College of Veterinary Medicine (1982-1989)
Deputy Examiner for NY State Veterinary Licensing Examination (1983-1989)
Member, Board of Directors of NEAVS (1998-1999); Advisory Board 2000-Present
Veterinary Columnist (“The GH Vet”) for Good Housekeeping 11/96-2001

June 1990 - Present: Medical practitioner at The Animal Hospital, Guilderland, NY.
Companion and exotic animal practice; wildlife rehabilitation.

March 1985 - March 1988: Medical and surgical practitioner at The Delmar Animal Hospital, Delmar, NY.  Companion animal practice, part-time, including three-month maternity leave.

August 1983 - March 1985: Medical and surgical practice at Drumm Veterinary Hospital, East Greenbush, NY.  Companion animal practice, part-time, including nine-month maternity

June 1980 - July 1982: Medical and surgical practitioner at Homer Animal Clinic.  Mixed practice, full-time.  Primarily dairy and equine practice.

Summer 1979: Anesthesia Crew, NYSCVM.  Duties: Anesthetist for large and small animal surgery and Intensive Care Unit staff.

Summer 1978: Milker for 120 head of Jersey cattle at Dargram Farms, Swanton, VT.

Summer 1977: Veterinary Assistant at the Lansdown Veterinary Clinic, Lexington, KY.  Small animal practice.  Duties: lab work, treatments and assisting with surgery.

1975-1976: Part-time work at the Kentucky Training Center, Lexington, KY.  Duties: galloping, grooming and hot-walking thoroughbreds. During this period, I also trained and drove a privately owned team of draft horses.

January 1974 - December 1974: Veterinary Assistant in Rochester Equine Clinic, Rochester, NH.  Duties: lab work, treatments, leg bandaging, assisting with surgery and with breeding, and swimming post-operative horses in the clinic pool.

Winter 1973 and 1975: Live-in help at an Arab and Appaloosa breeding farm in Dundas, Ontario, owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Bihldorff.  Duties: assisting with breeding, training the young stock, and stable care.

1971-1972: Nurses’ aide, physical therapist and social worker for the Frontier Nursing Service, Hyden, KY.  Duties: providing home health medical care and family counseling in rural Appalachia.  Managed the Service’s stable of Tennessee Walkers and mules.

Summer 1968: Research assistant for Dr. C.P. Lyman, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.  Duties: assisting with hibernation experiments on hamsters, dormice and ground squirrels; also managing a breeding colony of Turkish hamsters.

Holly Cheever, DVM    

Additional pertinent information re: my experience in animal cruelty case prosecution

·    Contributing author for How to investigate Animal Cruelty in New York State: A Manual of Procedures (produced by the New York State Humane Association in 1996)

·    Author of 2 chapters in Shelter Medicine for Veterinarians and Staff, Blackwell Publishing 2004.  Chapter 14: Equine Care in the Animal Shelter; Chapter 29: Recognizing and Investigating Equine Abuse.  

·    Lecturer for a seminar given to law officers three times annually in New York State. The seminar is entitled “Investigating Animal Cruelty” and my portion is called “Working with your Veterinarian on Animal Cruelty Cases”.

·    Lecturer to the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine annually on the topic of using one’s veterinary expertise in prosecuting animal cruelty cases. I also lecture to Tufts Veterinary School and the University of Pennsylvania’s Veterinary School on this same topic every one-two years.    

·    Lecturer to the SUNY Delhi Veterinary Technician program annually on the same topic.    
·    I have been assisting with investigating and testifying in these types of cases since 1982 on a local, state, and national level (including testifying before Congress in 1992).

Coalition To Ban
Horse-Drawn Carriages

A Committee of the Coalition For New York City Animals, Inc.

The Coalition for
NYC Animals, Inc.

P.O. Box 20247
Park West Station
New York, NY 10025


To honor
Bobby II Freedom
previously known as Billy
ID# 2873 rescued by the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages and Equine Advocates on June 25, 2010 from the New Holland auctions.

In memory of
Lilly Rose O'Reilly
previously known
as Dada ID# 2711
R.I.P.August, 2007