Horse Health

NY City Carriage Driver Charged With Alledgedly Abusing Injured Horse

By as published in The New York Times

“This incident further reinforces the need for an end to carriage horse operations in the city…”

New York Carriage Horse - photographer unknown

New York Carriage Horse – photographer unknown

A carriage horse driver with a checkered history was charged on Friday with animal cruelty after a police officer observed him working a horse that was visibly injured, according to court documents.

The officer, Brian Coll, was on patrol in Central Park shortly before midnight on Wednesday when he noticed a horse struggling to pull the weight of the carriage to which it was yoked.

He questioned the driver, Saverio Colarusso, and learned that the horse, Blondie, had been hurt for four days, according to court documents.

Despite the injury, Mr. Colarusso had worked Blondie for five hours that day, Officer Coll testified in the complaint.

He then summoned Sgt. Raymond Aviles, a mounted police officer with training in dealing with horses.

“The horse had an injury to the rear left leg,” Officer Coll testified, “causing it to have difficulty walking and substantial pain.”

Mr. Colarusso was arrested. If found guilty, he could face a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in jail.

It is not the first time Mr. Colarusso has gotten in trouble. In 2010, he was charged with drinking while on duty after being spotted drinking a beer while standing next to his carriage. Two other bottles of liquor were found inside the carriage.

He has also been fined for driving his horse through city streets at unauthorized times, failing to keep a daily log and not turning on the lamps on the side of his carriage after dark.

A lawyer representing Mr. Colarusso did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

About 200 horses work in Central Park, and animal rights advocates said that while Mr. Colarusso’s arrest might be unusual, many horses on New York City’s streets were suffering.

The case, they said, was more evidence that the newly elected mayor, Bill de Blasio, should make good on his campaign promise to ban horse carriages from the city’s streets and parks.

“This incident further reinforces the need for an end to carriage horse operations in the city,” said Bret Hopman, a spokesman for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “The A.S.P.C.A. believes that the use of carriage horses in 21st-century New York City is unnatural, unnecessary and an undeniable strain on the horses’ quality of life.”

The union that represents carriage drivers did not respond to calls and an email seeking comment.

Christina Hansen, a spokeswoman for the carriage industry, said it was “shocked and saddened to learn that one of our drivers was charged with animal cruelty.”

She said that if the driver were to be convicted, it would be the first time a carriage operator, owner or stable was found to have committed cruelty.

“I have spoken with the owner of Blondie, who says that he was unaware that Blondie had shown any signs of lameness or discomfort when being driven by Mr. Colarusso,” she said.

Ms. Hansen did not identify the owner by name, but she said: “He has suspended Mr. Colarusso pending the outcome of the investigation. We do not tolerate any mistreatment of the carriage horses in our business.”

If the police had not noticed Blondie’s condition, animal experts said, the injury could have proved fatal.

A subsequent examination by a police veterinarian found that Blondie had a condition called thrush — an infection of the hoof that if left untreated can lead to the horse becoming permanently lame, and subject to euthanasia.

Thursh can occur when a horse is not cared for properly and is kept in unclean conditions. After Mr. Colarusso’s arrest, an order of protection was issued directing him to stay away from Blondie.

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35 replies »

  1. Whether horses should pull loads on the streets of New York or anywhere is a question for debate. The condition of thrush, however, can occur even in a well-kept horse that has a compromised immune system. It is not evidence of neglect.

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    • In this case, it was an indicator of neglect. If it does occur with a well-cared for horse, it would have been addressed sooner, and I doubt the horse would have been made to walk on a painful hoof.

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      • This guy shouldn’t have anything to do with horses after the 2010 incident and once again here. Maybe the carriage owner (& horse owner) should keep better track of his (or her) employees and should be on top of the care of his horses – which are his bread & butter! I think most drivers do take good care of their horses – its like everything else, there are always a couple bad apples. And they need to be dealt with!

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    • As anyone who keeps a horse who develops thrush knows, it is difficult to treat and tends to recur. It does occur in properly-cared-for horses kept by responsible owners in good conditions. It is not, by itself, evidence of neglect. I should know. I keep four horses at home in identical conditions (barn with stalls and shavings, attached individual pens with pea gravel, turnout and pasture with companions 24/7 when weather is not rainy and cold, regular veterinary care, trimming by a barefoot trimmer). One of my horses has “poor feet” and tends to develop thrush (also cracks, chips, flaking, etc.). The other three do not. Google “thrush in horses” and see how many treatments are available and ask yourself why that is. I have tried all of them. Some work better than others. Anyone observing my horse in the field would see he is sometimes lame. They would also see he sometimes double-barrels the other horses, rolls, naps in the sun, boxes, rears and prances around like a yearling. I just think we need to be careful throwing around abuse and neglect accusations, and rushing to euthanize horses with chronic but treatable conditions.

      The carriage horse issue should be decided on its own merits.

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  2. If they do ban the carriages in NY what will happen to the horses by their owners. At least the horses can be checked for soundness by police for ASPCA people if they see something wrong. If the poor horse has thrush it can be treated but what would have happened to Blondie if no one would have checked on her.

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  3. What’s sad is these horses never look happy, bur forlorn. A big city with all of its noise, immense traffic, foul air and confusion is no place for them. What happened to keeping them in Central Park only?

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    • I should add to that list ‘unforgiving asphalt streets’ under their feet. Cities are just not made for this anymore. Let’s not confuse the issue – read the article. The policeman observed the driver ‘working a horse that was visibly injured’. The driver had worked the horse for five hours that day. That is abuse. What was causing the lameness only became evident later, after the horse was examined by a veterinarian.

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      • Personally, I would like to see the carriage horses limited to working in Central Park only. But I don’t agree that cities are always the wrong place for horses, or that working a horse on asphalt is per se cruel. In the UK, horses are often ridden and driven on asphalt lanes. What about police horses or parade horses? Maybe we need more horses in cities and fewer cars.

        The question of whether, when and where horses should “be in work” or “work through pain,” given the widespread use of NSAIDs such as Phenylbutazone, is not just a question for carriage horses, and should be carefully considered. This article, and the charges against the driver in this case, only confuse the issue. If thrush was the condition, there would have been no “visible injury.” Quite possibly, the horse was limping. Limping is not a “visible injury” like an open wound or bleeding cut. Limping is a symptom. The discussion of thrush in this context is misleading.

        It may be cruel to ever work, handle or ride a horse in any amount of pain or discomfort (including unhappiness), and I hope we learn all the facts as the case develops, but it’s not the open and shut case of abuse as presented in the article.

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  4. Why has this man not been jailed before and why has he not been under close watch from his past abuse of the horses,., It is not all carrage drivers that are bad yet all get the blame because of laws that allow this guy to keep abusing the horses all horse folks are not bad or abusers yet we get bad reaps because of these idiots out there

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    • I disagree. Modern pavement was developed for cars, not horses. Short-term for police and ceremony might not do much damage initially, but long-term, such as for carriage horses and compounded by pulling weight, the day-to-day pounding would be hard on the joints. It isn’t good for human runners because the surface does not give, and I don’t know how wildlife such as deer adapt to it. Thrush itself isn’t an injury, but to the policeman, it appeared as though there were an injury, because the horse looked like it was lame and in pain. It doesn’t say if there was anything else the policeman noticed, like swelling or inflammation. The driver not only had been working the horse for five hours that day, but he claimed the horse had been in pain for four previous days also. An advancing infection could cause some sort of injury to the hoof or bone. Of course, one wonders why the man continued to work the horse. You have to wonder what kind of environment they are kept in – if it is clean and dry and wastes removed from under their feet. The article certainly suggests not.

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      • Any equine owner, riding in an urban environment especially on asphalt or concrete should know what shoes to provide their charge. If you don’t, ask a knowledgeable farrier or don’t ride in an urban environment..

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      • You may wonder what kind of environment this horse was kept in, but it is irrelevant to the development of thrush. It is “an old wives’ tale” (as the article I am linking to here in “Blood Horse” describes it) that thrush is the result of keeping a horse in poor conditions. It is rather a result of the inability of the horse’s foot to “self-clean,” due to a compromised immune system, contracted heels, deep sulci and such. Regular picking out of the foot may not be helpful to a horse with a tendency to develop thrush, and may even be harmful. Regular exercise is considered helpful. As this requires walking and even trotting a horse with an obviously painful foot, it may seem counterintuitive, but a lot of scientific facts are counterintuitive. That’s one reason courts of law tend not to give much weight to things that “seem obvious” or that “everyone knows.”

        http://cs.bloodhorse.com/files/folders/60502/download.aspx

        Perhaps a horse with contracted heels or a poor immune response or any chronic foot problem should not be worked (driven or ridden). That is the decision I made for my horse. And it may be an issue for the owner and the driver of this carriage horse if the abuse charge goes forward. But the inference that the presence of thrush in any horse is evidence of neglect or abuse is inaccurate. It also confuses the real issue of whether horses should be made to pull carriages.

        Liked by 1 person

      • theandbetween:

        I said this before and I will say it again, we do NOT have a complete medical evaluation of this carriage horse. We have history of the driver.

        Medical cause and effect is constantly debated by medical authorities. I saw an article on The Horse that also contributes stone bruisers to lameness.

        Until we know the ENTIRE medical diagnosis of this great equine, NO ONE is qualified to comment on anything but the incompetence of the driver (and/or owner) and that if NYC wants carriage equines, they better get them off roads competing with a$$hat auto drivers surrounding the park, better and ENFORCED stabling procedures and monitoring work shifts.

        This assumes you are not PeTA and the rage that ASPCA is on this specific subject.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Once again, it’s all about being responsible

    Responsible owners take care of their horses and they most certainly treat an issue such as thrush – “he was UNAWARE Blonde was lame”….REALLY !?!?!!!! yet a non horse person police officer noticed straight away.

    Responsible owners plan for eventualities – if carriage horses are banned, responsible owners will provide for their equines. Sadly, the irresponsible will do what they always do

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  6. Cruelty to animals, also called animal abuse or animal neglect, is the human infliction of suffering or harm upon non-human animals, for purposes other than self-defense or survival.

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  7. Thrush is a condition, not an injury as the officer claimed. Some horses are more susceptible than others living in identical conditions, and as was mentioned above can be a chronic condition for some, no matter the care or living conditions.

    I agree the issue of working when in pain is another matter entirely, but it should be clear that thrush is not an injury and does not by its mere presence indicate abuse or neglect.

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  8. Something just doesn’t sound correct or complete about this story, other than the carriage driver is either a moron or cretin…of course.

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  9. The streets of New York are not suitable for horse drawn carriages, period! The conditions are deplorabe… driving the horses in extreme hot and cold weather. Several horses have dropped over dead in the heavy traffic creating even more havoc for traffic and pedestrians. This mode of transportation is not worth the cost to the suffering of horses and the harm it can cause to bystanders. I understand at one time they were considering using antique cars, which would certainly be a unique idea and far safer for the people in NewYork City. Let’s hope those responsible will consider the welfare for all.

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    • So, you advocate removing all equines from NYC? Police horses? Private stables with riding horses, ponies, drafts, mules, burros?

      What about regulation with enforcement?

      What a sad day for NYC when all the equines are gone. I say get rid of the autos and trucks and use equines for all load, lift and carry needs….;)

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  10. A properly cared for horse can provide services in just about any place; the key word being PROPERLY cared for.

    I don’t believe in self regulation, nor do I believe in the complete abolition. There has to be a reasonable middle ground.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. DUH The horse was walking LAME and workng put to a carage. A police officer without any equine training saw THAT. State anti-cruelty laws say it is llegal to work or ride a lame horse. The driver said the horse had been lame about 5 days

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  12. I hope the Mayor replaces these horses with the turn of the century open cars that they have talked about for so long. This isn’t the first time drivers have been caught mistreating their horses. There are laws now in place in New York about how many hours a horse can be worked in the summer because of heat and in the winter because of the cold. But I will bet that if the stall this horse had to sleep in was seen it would be found full of manure and wet. This guy knew the horse was limping but he wanted to make as much money as he could to help pay for his drinking habit. I also think a lot of these horses are treated with bute too if they show any sign of sore feet or any other signs of distress. What kind of a life do these horses have working 7 days a week pulling a carriage loaded with people. These horses never get a chance to be turned out in a pasture to enjoy something as simple as a roll.

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  13. One horse owner neglects his horse. Does that mean all horse owners should no longer be able to own a horse? This is how ludicrous the jump from one carriage horse driver getting charged with animal neglect/abuse to ending the all carriage horse operators right to work. This is why we have animal cruelty laws that should be enforced. His previous violations did not even involve animal abuse but drinking on the job and failing to put on carriage lights. No priors for animal abuse. Use a little horse sense. Someone should have reported the injured horse 4 days prior so that the horse would not have had to suffer as obviously from the statement made, someone alleged the horse had been worked while injured for 4 days. It’s up to us to not just pass by a starving, neglected, abused, injured horse, but to do something, notify the authorities, talk to the owner, find out the situation and act appropriately. Carriage horse laws were developed to protect horses from abuse. It a job that keeps many horses out of the slaughter pipeline. It also introduces city folk to the magic of horses. It’s not a perfect world, but that’s why advocates have worked to develop horse carriage regulations.

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  14. Well let him sit in jail for awhile. With no air or water for hours and see what he thinks about that. Then let him Stand on the Corner with a Sign that says. What He did to a Horse that he treated like Crap. Maybe he will think about what he did Wrong. Or Just Put him in Prison For a few years.

    Liked by 1 person

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