Monday, June 10, 2013

Group raises concerns over treatment of Downtown carriage horses

Posted By on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 11:12 AM

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  • AAHDC video screenshot
An Atlanta group has started a petition to raise awareness over what they consider to be the continued unethical treatment of horses used to pull Downtown carriage rides.

Against Atlanta Horse Drawn Carriages says that Atlanta's laws created to protect horses from cruel living and working conditions aren't currently being enforced. They want the Atlanta Police Department, which is responsible for enforcing the laws, to crack down on carriage operators - or even end the practice altogether if the city's laws aren't followed.

"We ask that you take measures to [ensure] the law in regards to the horses, their living conditions and their working conditions, are enforced," the petition, which has more than 4,000 signatures, says. "If the laws cannot be enforced, then the horse drawn carriages in Atlanta should be shut down."

Kathy Burke, a Gwinnett County activist leading AAHDC's efforts, thinks that two horse-drawn carriage companies, Fantasy Carriages and Nottingham Shire & Carriage for Hire, have failed to properly care for the horses over the years.

Atlanta's codes require that horse-drawn carriage companies must "provide humane care and treatment" and not "impair the good health and physical condition" of carriage horses. The group, however, claims that many horses are not given proper access to water and are occasionally neglected. Burke says that the two companies provide "unacceptable" living conditions and its carriage operators don't properly care for the horses while they're on-the-job. "They're clearly not horse people," she says.

Amanda Araim, owner of Nottingham Shire & Carriage for Hire for the past 13 years, says she has worked with horses her entire life and goes above and beyond what's required for her horses, which includes shorter shifts, stricter stable regulations, and increased attention to their horses' health. She also says she had Burke arrested for "assaulting" her in Downtown, and overall thinks that most protesters aren't willing to hear her side of the issue. They simply want horse carriages removed from the city's streets.

"We have never received a single citation from the city, the county, or the state's agriculture department - all three entities come and inspect our horses and carriages on a regular basis," Araim tells CL. "They come out all the time, and actually more than they're supposed to, because every time those groups come out and file a complaint, they have to come out and inspect."

According to Burke, animal right activists have fought on behalf of Atlanta's carriage-drawn horses as far back as 1988. But the cause hasn't seen much progress. In recent years, similar efforts have gained steam in New York City, where several mayoral candidates are now vowing to ban the practice if elected.

Burke says that Atlanta's horse-drawn carriage operators are allowed to continue operating due to an "astounding" lack of regulation. "There's no oversight or real-time administration of the law," she tells CL.

"The city's not designed to accommodate horse-drawn carriages," adds Burke. "They don't really have the space set aside for carriage stands like they should. They don't have shelter or water for the horses at the carriage stands. If they insist on having horse-drawn carriages in the city, they need to put money into facilities to have the right facilities."

CL also reached out to Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall, who represents much of Downtown, and Fantasy Carriage for this story. If we hear back from either, we'll post an update.

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