ASPCA, NYC advocacy groups call for reforms to city's carriage horse industry

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Jan 01, 2012

NEW YORK, N.Y. — A veterinarian suspended by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) after clarifying her own comments about the death of a carriage horse still has not been in contact with her employer.

Nearly two months after Dr. Pamela Corey was caught in a conflict of interest over a statement released about the death of a New York City carriage horse, her husband, Mike Larson, says Corey still has not had any contact with ASPCA. Lawyers are now discussing the fate of Corey's position as director of equine veterinary services for the ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Department—a post she has held since 2008.

In last month's exclusive interview with DVM Newsmagazine, Corey says she filed a complaint with the New York Attorney General's Office over the way the ordeal unfolded.

"It's a very horrible situation to be in," Corey says. "I really don't think anyone's opinion counts. I was supposed to be objective and that's not what was happening. Me, as the veterinary professional, was put in a really unconscionable position."

Corey's dilemma centers on an ASPCA statement about the death of a carriage horse. Corey implied the horse had been forced to work with painful maladies. At the request of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene—which licenses New York City's carriage horses—Corey clarified her statement by saying that the horse's owners likely didn't know about the condition. ASPCA then suspended Corey without pay. Corey says she doesn't want to resign from her position, but it could come to that.

In the meantime, ASCPA continues its march toward carriage-horse reforms, which include, at minimum, mandatory veterinary examinations.

A rally on Nov. 21, hosted by New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, was organized to flaunt the collection of 55,000 signatures on a petition in favor of the passage of Intro 86A by New York City Council.

The bill calls for horse carriages to be replaced with electric-powered "horseless carriages" to replicate turn-of-the-century cars. Advocates say the legislation would transform the industry while maintaining jobs, generate revenue, attract tourists and aim to provide a better life for the city's carriage horses.

Cries for reform of the carriage-horse industry is in response to a string of horse-related incidents over the last five months, ASPCA says. In fact, ASPCA and New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets have compiled a list of reforms for the carriage-horse industry, including increased penalty for drivers working during a suspension, the ability to issue a preventive closure in advance of inclement weather or a city-wide state of emergency, restricting operations only to Central Park, and developing stricter regulations on the horses' working conditions.

Also, reforms call for certification of carriage horses, requiring a veterinarian's examination of each horse within three months of initial licensure. A second veterinary exam would be required when horses return from vacation prior to returning to work.

"Until we pass Intro 86A, at minimum we must ensure these necessary reforms are put in place and that the industry adheres to these basic principles," says Manhattan Borough Council member Sara Gonzales. "The recent collapses of carriage horses on our city streets attest to the urgent need for reform so these beautiful creatures are afforded the dignity they deserve."