Gentle Bobby Breaks Free
A story of three advocacy groups -- Friends of Animals, the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages and Equine Advocates -- that teamed up to save a city horse from a Pennsylvania kill auction
In collaboration with the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, we’ve been working several years to ban New York’s horse-drawn carriage industry. So we’re pleased to report that our efforts, joined by the commitment of Equine Advocates, have saved a former carriage horse we found for sale at the New Holland, Pennsylvania horse auction.
As Elizabeth Forel, president of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, stated, "Current law does not protect any of the horses from going to the kill auctions."
And for many animals, this “kill auction” is the final betrayal -- the one that leads to the slaughterhouse. Horses are sold there weekly, and some go directly off to Canada or Mexico, where tens of thousands are slaughtered every year.
But someone cared about Bobby. Forel received an anonymous message telling us a horse with the four-digit hoof engraving -- the mark on all city carriage horses -- was headed for slaughter.
“Little did I know,” said Elizabeth, “of the journey that would begin when I turned on my computer that Friday, the 25 th of June. We always suspected that the industry sends horses to slaughter since so many -- seventy to ninety -- disappear from the Department of Health registry each year.”
This horse, like them, could no longer make it through another day confined to the shafts of a carriage, pulling tourists through Manhattan’s chaos. The horse’s owners, Maria Sulla and Sebastian Spina, worked out of the West Side Livery stable at West 37 th Street in Manhattan. In a July New York Times blog article about the rescue, they explained that they’d bought a younger horse.
“I didn’t want to put it in service anymore,” Mr. Spina said, speaking of their discarded horse. “It was too old.”
The trip back north
Friends of Animals and the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages funded Bobby’s rescue and trip from Pennsylvania to a veterinary hospital in upstate New York.
The bay gelding was estimated at 14 years old, having pulled a carriage in New York City day after day for at least five years. According to records from the Department of Health, Bobby was taken out of the tourist circuit on June 20 th, 2010, a few days before the auction. The veterinarian’s report revealed a stress injury to the right front leg, stomach worms, and neglected teeth. Bobby also had several scars on the face and neck, from the constant rubbing and chafing of leather and metal.
After being treated for the injuries, Bobby was off to Chatham, New York. There, l ocal schoolchildren greeted Bobby with posters and smiles. Susan Wagner, president of the Equine Advocates Horse Sanctuary, recalls the moment of Bobby’s arrival:
The minute Bobby came off the trailer, I could sense a difference from when he first arrived at the hospital a day and half earlier. Gone was the pained, tense look that he had. Instead, I saw an alert and interested horse, extremely curious about his new surroundings. Bobby was led into a grassy paddock and turned loose. One of the first things he did was roll in the grass, something that all horses need to do, but this New York City carriage horse probably hadn't done for years. After about an hour in the paddock, as I approached him to give him a carrot, he stopped, lowered his head and positioned himself in a way as to allow me to place carriage horse equipment on him. I just said, "Never again, Bobby."
Bobby has changed, over the recent days, from a worried, battered animal to a free spirit. Over time, Susan says, there will be no evidence of the hoof number, 2873, which actually helped to save his life -- for it will grow out. The only reminder of his former life will be the scars on his face and neck.
On the 11 th of July, I visited Bobby at his 140-acre home, a sanctuary where 80 rescued horses live, finally, at their own pace and according to their own decisions. Bobby was frisky, curious and affectionate, and delighted with the carrots I brought.
Many more are not so lucky. So we campaign to end the root of the problem, by demanding a ban to the horse-drawn carriage companies in New York City and beyond.
What You Can Do
In addition to showing your support for Equine Advocates and all hard-working sanctuaries, you can support our campaigns to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City; Philadelphia; Haddonfield, New Jersey; and Victoria, BC, Canada. If you live in a town with horse-drawn vehicles, contact your mayor and council representatives and urge the passage of legislation to end the custom. Non-residents can pledge not to visit until that’s done.
Please sign the NYC petition online at: http://www.banhdc.org/petition.shtml Also, you can write a letter to Mayor Bloomberg to urge acceptance of council member Melissa Mark-Viverito’s Intro 86, the bill that would replace horse-drawn carriages with electric-powered antique cars, and would amend the current loophole in the law allowing horses to end up at slaughter auctions, so that all former carriage horses can be placed in an appropriate sanctuary.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall, New York, NY 10007
Outside NYC: 212-NEW-YORK