ASPCA’s Chief Equine Vet Corrects ‘Misleading Statements’ In Carriage Horse’s Death

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Accusations of deceit and lies.

Horse carriage drivers say the ASPCA misled the public after the death of a carriage horse and now they are demanding the city investigate.

Mounting tensions between horse carriage drivers and the ASPCA erupted when 15-year-old draft horse Charlie collapsed and died in the streets of Manhattan last month.

“When you have an agency like the ASPCA who police us and at the same time want us banned I think that’s very un-American,” driver Ian McKeever told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.

A preliminary necropsy — which didn’t list a cause of death — showed Charlie had a stomach ulcer and a fractured tooth. (LINK: ASPCA Releases Findings on Carriage Horse Death)

Some groups who oppose carriage rides said at the time that the results proved the horse was suffering while still being forced to work.

The initial report issued by the ASPCA, which is campaigning to ban carriage horses, quotes Dr. Pamela Corey — their chief equine veterinarian — as saying, “We are very concerned that Charlie was forced to work in spite of painful maladies.”

But days later Dr. Corey herself sent a letter to the health department saying she felt pressured to portray the incident in the worst possible light and correcting what she calls “misleading statements.”

In part, the letter read, “There is no evidence that Charlie was experiencing any pain. There was no evidence of cruelty or neglect in this case.”

Dr. Corey  was quickly suspended without pay by the ASPCA.

An agency spokesperson points out the original report never implied Charlie’s owners were aware of his condition and says the agency was blindsided by Corey’s change of heart .

“Dr. Corey was intimately involved in drafting and ultimately reviewed, edited, and approved the final statement. We are not aware of any new facts that have come to light,” the ASPCA said in a statement.

The ASPCA has authority to enforce the city’s animal cruelty laws but carriage drivers — who have faced intensified calls to ban carriage rides since the incident happened — are now demanding those privileges be revoked.

Dr. Corey declined to speak on camera while she is still under suspension

However, late Thursday afternoon Dr. Corey sent a letter to several agencies, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Department of Health, acknowledging that she signed off on the original report and calling that a personal mistake.

Sound off in our comments section below…

  • Debbie

    The few so call animal adovcoates who spend needless time and energy attacking ASPCA and other animal groups such as NY CLASS are only doing more harm than good. Shame on Corey for throwing the ASPCA under the bus. I am very disappointed with her cowardice. Of course there is NO evidence of cruelty since the horses can’t speak and the ilelgal and thugs in the industry are silence. We need an investigation into this industry that cheats the tourists and the taxpayers of NYC. Why are we subsidizing this industry that abuses animals and makes this city look worse than a 3rd world country? They are in a FAKE union, they overcharge tourists, they have illegals and don’t pay employer’s taxes. When wil lthe Attorney General or someone investigate this corrupt disgustin industry?? and ALL animlal adovate spend more time attacking thses lowlives instead of other animal groups. it is COUNTERPRODUCTIVE and makes you look CRAZY.

    • Frank

      If you actually knew anything about horses then you would know that ulcers are NOT uncommon and the tooth could have chipped at any time. Horses teeth are NOT like human teeth as they do not contain a nerve and grow the entrie life of the horse.

  • Carriage Horse Lover

    Dr. Corey was suspended because she told the TRUTH- the science behind the necropsy did NOT reveal Charlie was “forced to work while in pain.” The ASPCA pressured her to “go along” with their position because they wanted to USE Charlie’s death to further their avowed pledge to shut down the horse-drawn carriages in NYC.

    A cracked tooth and an ulcer would not have caused a horse- ANY horse- to suddenly collapse and die within minutes if not seconds. Look at what happened to Hickstead the show jumper, and he had had been seen by a vet three times during the week before his sudden collapse and death.

    Hickstead’s necropsy was released within two days It has been nearly a month and STILL the ASPCA has not released all of Charlie’s necropsy results. Is it possilbe that he died of an aortic aneurism, like Hickstead? If this were so, it would exmpain why they will not release that info- BECAUSE there is no way to PREVENT one of those no mater what “job” a horse has.

  • Patrice

    I have a concern — if the NYC carriages are banned the carriage horses are out of work. Where do you think they will go? Probably to an auction – since they will no longer have a “job” to do. At the auctions there are meat buyers who transport horses to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. I can go to an auction and buy a horse for $200-$400 — and, yes, this does include draft horses — these are horses from the “kill pens” that are awaiting shipment to their final end. Weekly there are people who attempt to bail these hoses from the feedlot pens — but you can’t save them all. So what will be the fate of these unemployed carriage horses? And will it be better than pulling a carriage? The possibility of going to slaughter in Canada or Mexico is a very real one.

  • Donny Moss

    The carriage operators should love the ASPCA, who turns a blind eye day and night to carriage operators who break the law – working in the worst of weather conditions, working outside the area allowed by the law during the day, running red lights, talking on cell phones, overcharging customers who have no recourse b/c it’s an all cash business. The fact that the ASPCA has enabled this industry is bad; the fact that Christine Quinn has undemocratically killed all legislative efforts to take these horses out of harm’s way is even worse. What is Quinn going to say when kids get trampled by a spooked horse in Central Park?

    • Carriage Horse Lover

      It is easy to make all kinds of alligations on the Internet, isn’t it. If your claims were true, surely SOMEONE would have been caught doing these things by now. Where are copies of police reports and or citations or arrest records to support your claims, Donny?

      The carriage hroses and drivers of NYC are hard working regular people just trying to keep their jobs. What do you DO for a living Donny? Who signs your pay check?

      Why don’t you try working as a cfarriage horse driverfor a day? That is if you could find someone willing to trust you with their valuable horse and carriage.

  • Ml

    Pet shops DO need to be shut down and banned. Puppy and kitten mills should be banned, try are horrible. 50 animals are killed every day in NYC shelters alone. And the harsh streets of NYC are no place for a horse, period.

    • Observer in NYC

      Maybe they do need to be shut down, but my point is that advocating such whilst having enforcement responsibilities is a conflict of interest. Everyone knows the conditions at the ACC shelters are horrible, yet the ASPCA won’t inspect them or cite the obvious abuse there because after 100 years of running the City’s shelters, they will do anything and everything to avoid getting sucked back into running them. However, they are the only organization with the money and expertise to fix the shelters but it’s alot easier being a big fundraising machine than fixing the problem..

  • Observer in NYC

    lease NY Attorney General – investigate how exactly the ASPCA can have a private police force, with powers of warrentless arrests searches — even seizures of people animals – with no government oversight nor accountability. It’s such a blatant conflict of interest and is so Un-American too. The ASPCA positions themselves as above reproach, but this is just the latest incident in which the ASPCA has abused its authority. Now the ASPCA is on a nationwide campaign to blacklist stores selling puppies (because most come from “puppy mills”) – while at the same time having inspection authority over those stores in NYC. Another conflict of interest.

  • Wamakaskan

    animals often do not show their pain…a chipped tooth, however, is obvious and a ulcer would have signs that would be noticed if anyone were paying is up to the people involved with them to speak for them and protect them…and you know how poor Charlie wasn’t experiencing any pain…Please…..spare us the excuses of greed…

    • Level headed

      A chipped tooth while obvious does not mean the horse was caused pain by it. One of my dogs has chipped a tooth in the past, and when I took him to the vet, the vet said that it is unlikely to cause pain, but to watch it and they would remove it if the tooth turned brown (which it did not) or if it appeared to be causing discomfort (also it does not). While I am not sure how I feel about carriage horses in general street traffic (not because I feel the horses are abused, but because so many people drive dangerously), I don’t think that organizations that are meant to help animals should lie or mislead in order to propagate their own agendas. It cheapens them and what they do.

      • Wamaksan

        and of course you took your dog to a vet and perhaps had the rough edge filed…as for Charlie did he also have this care and pehaps the steel in his mouth adjusted or replaced you a hackamore….and on days his stomach rocked and rolled from his ulcers..did he rest..maybe in the sunshine …quality of like is what we owe to tho animals put in our care…and this horse,, who died laying in the streets of a city, deserved that much…he earned the driver’s living…

        • Wamakaskan

          I weould like to correct my last comment…’Quality of LIFE’ is what we owe the creatures put in our care Great or Small…was Charlie on special feed and meds for the ulcer, that I am sure controled the quality of his life on many days…

        • pam irvin

          pets are different in some people’s minds. charlie had a job, does that make him any less important? it just breaks my heart to hear these stories. but, then again, there are those that will not see the light, even when it’s right in front of their face. it truly is up to all of us to protect and stand up for the animals. they can have a voice-through compassionate people such as yourself.

    • Carriage Horse Lover

      What Greed? The greed of the ASPCA to collect even more donations- donations that are spent for more publicity instead of on the animals they are supposed to protect?

      FYI– The expense of vet care or to “replace” a carriage horse far outweigh the few dollars a carriage horse owner would gain by intentionally working a sick horse. If you owned a horse, especially a carriage horse, you would KNOW that.

      Horses today are ioften very expensive to treat should they become ill with a career or life-threatening illness. Most carriage horse owners are very careful to observe their horses’ behavior, and call in a vet whenever any kind of potential illness or disease is suspected.

      Studies have shown that 650 to 90% of stalled horses, and even as much as 60% of horses on pasture have ulcers at one time or another. Even nursing foals have been found with ulcers. Many of these ulcers are asymptomatic. Many, like Charlie’s are only found upon necropsy- and many horses are not necropsied because of the logistics often involved. Certainly more research needs to be done on how to prevent and successfully manage and cure equine ulcers.

      People who work with horses become very good at “reading” the horses around them. Horses, like most animals, do try to hide pain- yourr pet dog or cat will do this too, -because pain and weakness used to be a cue for predators to move in.

      Just as Hickstead showed no visible symptoms before collapsing with a fatal aneurysm, so Charlie showed NO SIGNS that would have led his owner to think he was ill. I KNOW this to be the case because as a carriage horse owner I KNOW just how expensive it can be to treat any horse aliment that is career or life-threatening, even when it is caught early. Only a fool would ignore symptons of illness and risk even more expensive treatment, or worse, risk losing a horse.

      NO one has felt the lost of Charlie more than his owner and driver. I am so tired of people who obviously have no real first-hand experience in keeping horses spouting off with their foolish accusations.If you don’t believe me, there are plenty copies of good reseach papers on the subject of equine ulcers and even on threatment of chipped teeth in equines. Please try to educate yourselves BEFORE posting.

  • Carriage Horse Lover

    Shame on the anti-carriage horse people for their lack of compassion toward Charlie’s driver and owner.

    Rina Deyche- There is NO proof that Charlie “died an agonizing death”- where are you getting this from?

    The ASPCA’s own vet Dr. Corey issued a statment clarifying that there was no scientific proof thet he was in pain, and the fact that he has an asymptomatic ulcer COULD not be used as any proof that he was abused or neglected.

    Where have you been? Hven’t you read about the retraction? ANd not her husband, who is a livestock inspector, has written a long letter that in affect says his wife was pressured by her employer the ASPCA to make the earlier statements that he was “unhealthy” and “in pain.”

    You are a nurse- a nurse threats humans. You should stick to doing that. FYI horses’ teeth do not have nerves in tham that extend above the gumline. When a horse cracks its tooth, it does not feel pain. If the gums around a cracked tooth become infected, THEN the horse feels pain.And we really don’t know if he had a cracked tooth before he collapsed and died. That tooth could have been cracked or fractured on the street when he collapsed.

    Horses with painful mouths, for whatever reason, DON”T eat. Charlie was eating normally and was in good flesh.

    According to several scientific studies, approximately 60 to 90% of horses stalled at least part of the time have ulcers. But you don’t see multitudes of horeses dropping dead or even writhing on the ground in pain. Again, the horses’ physiology is not EXACTLY like a human’s.

    All of this unfounded speculation could be ended- if the ASPCA would just SHOW US THE NECROPSY.

    • Rina Deych

      Excerpt: “How do I prevent gastric ulcers?
      Horses that have constant access to turnout and roughage in the form of hay or pasture rarely develop gastric ulceration.
      Horses that are not in training, rarely develop gastric ulceration.
      We suspect that the best prevention for gastric ulceration is to mimic, as best as possible, the life of a horse at free range. This translates into frequent small meals, a preponderance of roughage in the diet, and plenty of turnout.”

  • Declan Meehan

    The ASPCA police the horse and carriage industry yet they want to ban it. There is to any fool a conflict of interest here . The first time ever a carriage horse was handed over to them for an autopsy they pressure their own vet to falsify the results . The horse and carriage industry is a very transparent business , all you have to do is walk up to Central Park and LOOK at the horses. They are all in great condition, nothing to hide . The New York carriage business is the most regulated in the world. Each carriage in the city is individually owned and so are the horses, this is a major factor often overlooked. These guys love their horses ,they spend more time with them than their wife and kids, there part of the family. The ASPCA should concentrate on something useful like stopping dog fights in the Bronx and leave the working man and horse alone.

    • Observer in NYC`

      Please NY Attorney General – investigate how exactly the ASPCA can have a private police force, with powers of warrentless arrests searches — even seizures of people animals – with no government oversight nor accountability. It’s such a blatant conflict of interest and is so Un-American too. The ASPCA positions themselves as above reproach, but this is just the latest incident in which the ASPCA has abused its authority. Now the ASPCA is on a nationwide campaign to blacklist stores selling puppies (because most come from “puppy mills”) – while at the same time having inspection authority over those stores in NYC. Another conflict of interest.

    • pam irvin

      the fact that you can look at the horses and that they are in great condition, is not the point. horses have been by man’s side for ages. they have served us well.,,,but now,in 2011 has come for their emancipation. while it may be to some people just an enjoyable carriage ride, these horses have no say in their own lives. they dont call in sick, they cant. i just feel as if people would put themselves in the horse’s shoes, maybe they would understand. every being desires to be free and unshackled.

      • Carriage Horse Lover

        Pam- So you can read horses’ minds, can you? That’s a good trick. Horses are NOT people, please do not ascribe HUMAN desires and emotions to OTHER species. Yes, all living creatures have desires and emotions, they just don’t have HUMAN ones.

        Horses have horse desires and emptions, dogs have dog desires and emotions, and so on. While some of these desires may parallel each other they still are NOT the same. The concept of “freedom” is a HUMAN concept. The desire to “be free and unshackled” is a HUMAN desire.

        • pam irvin

          carriage horse lover-i dont need to ascribe human desires and emotions to other species. it is a well-proven fact that other species have similiar emotions and desires as the human species. i am curious about horse desires and emotions and dog desires and emotions. does every horse, dog, cat, bear, and so on have different agendas in their lives.. it is total idiocy to believe that freedom is a human concept. maybe i should say that animals desire “freedom”. if one takes any animal and confines it, im sure that you would agree, it is almost a given that they will try to break free. im sure with a little more education, you would be able to justify your views.

      • Frank


        Where would you release these horses?

        Are you going to pay for their vet care (annual checks, energency care, spring shots, fall shots, etc…), farrier (even a “barefoot” horse needs to be trimmed), pasture, grain, blankets, fly spray/wraps, etc… Horses REQUIRE a lot of care beyond just releasing them.

  • Rina Deych

    I’m curious to know exactly what is inaccurate about the vet’s original statement. If she is now claiming he didn’t have a broken tooth and/or a chronic ulcer, those are concrete things and easily verifiable (hopefully by a vet who is a bit more stable than Ms. Corey). If she is claiming that her original statement that he was in pain when he died, I’m not sure how she would prove or disprove that since horses can’t speak, especially dead ones. It’s common knowledge, though, that both conditions are extremely painful. Anyone who has had a fractured tooth (or even one with a cavity) knows, tooth pain alone can consume one’s entire being (especially, I would imagine, if a metal bit – like the ones in the horses’ mouths – kept banging against it). Then there’s the chronic ulcer, which (as most people know) generally causes prolonged pain, which may vary in degrees, and intensify greatly, especially if untreated. Additionally, regardless of what the actual cause of death was, something ultimately made Charlie drop to the ground (which was likely painful in and of itself). Combined with the probability that the driver was shouting and yanking on the reins to force him to get up (as I have seen happen when horses collapse), it’s crystal clear
    that Charlie died an agonizing death. Shame on the carriage horse industry for its lack of compassion. Horses don’t belong in NYC traffic, period. Enough is enough. It’s (past) time to ban this cruel, outdated industry. Rina Deych, RN

    • Wamakaskan

      Amen…to Rina…you expanded on what I thought…thank you

      • pam irvin

        ditto, rina

    • beth

      Thank you, Rina, for a calm and rational explication of the sordid underbelly of this wholly exploitative industry. The screaming comments on this reports indicate those in are are running scared and desperate to maintain their greedy, wantonly exploitative ways. Cuz that’s all it is: Sheer exploitation and despicable abuse, of these gentle prey animals.

      • Christina Hansen

        I think the “screaming” has to do with the fact that an organization that rakes in $140 million a year in donations and has a HUGE conflict of interest has had its “sordid underbelly” exposed.

        Donors SHOULD be outraged that an organization like the ASPCA that claims the moral high ground would find it necessary to coerce, pressure and mislead to fabricate evidence for its campaign against carriage horses, which already had very few facts in its favor to support the hysteric cries of “abuse” and “cruelty.”

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