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Carriage-Horse Cruelty in Mumbai, Judge Orders Reports on Conditions

Sick, injured, overworked and malnourished horses are being forced to drag overcrowded carriages (called “Victorias”) through dense and dangerous traffic in Mumbai, India, claim animal-rights activists in public-interest litigation recently submitted to the high court in Bombay.

There have been numerous accidents recorded in this congested city in which both horses and humans have been seriously injured or even killed. Recently, a horse carriage skidded at Gateway of India in Mumbai and seriously injured two passengers. In September last year, another horse pulling a carriage collapsed in the street from exhaustion, according to reports.

After review of the evidence contained in the petition, a division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Nitin Jamdar ordered that any unfit horses should be reported to the BMC’s executive health officer and should not be allowed to be returned to the carriage until their owners get a fitness certificate, according to (The BMC is the Brihan Mumbai Corporation--a major civic corporation in India, which manages the civic requirements of Mumbai.)

Adding strength to the ongoing PIL filed by the Animals and Birds Charitable Trust, an intervention application by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India was accepted by the Bombay High Court, reported on July 7, 2012.  PETA  states that in recent years it has gathered substantial evidence of cruelty to horses used to pull Victoria horse carriages in Mumbai, as well as the traffic risks they pose to citizens.

According to the court order, the original petitioners, Animals and Birds Charitable Trust and the Animal Welfare Board, will have to identify any unfit and sick horses and provide that information to the BMC's executive health officer. The officer will then summon the owner to produce the horse to be examined by a veterinarian from the committee appointed by the BMC. Unless the horse gets a fitness certificate, it will be prohibited from Mumbai streets.

The court also directed the officer to submit a report about the action it has initiated in such cases after three weeks. Meanwhile, the state submitted a list of schemes that could be made available to owners and drivers of horses to rehabilitate them, states.

Animal-protection advocates have been calling for a total ban on horses being used in Mumbai to pull carriages and are encouraged by this decision as at least a first step in providing more humane treatment for the animals. The horses are forced to live in filthy, damp stables amidst their own faces and urine and are often left to stand without any shade, which is a clear violation of law, state the activists who posted the video, Mumbai Horse Carriages Should be Banned (below)

There are approximately 170 horses in Mumbai harnessed to carriages ("Victorias") and around 100 owners and 107 drivers, states the petition filed by Animals and Birds Charitable Trust. Overwork, malnutrition, and lack of proper care are common problems, according to the campaigners.

A report submitted to the high court recently determined that, of the 371 horses examined by the BMC in the city and its suburbs, at least 196 needed treatment.

 The petitioners also claim that many horses show signs of tenderness in their feet due to maggot-riddled hooves. The skin of the horses had burn marks from the limestone used to cover saddle wounds, while their mouths showed injuries from the metal spike placed there to rein them in.. The conditions in stables were pitiable, with horses tethered next to garbage dumps, according to the report.

On June 14, representatives from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Plant & Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) met with civic chief R.K. Somawane, and asked authorities to issue motorized rickshaw licenses to carriage owners willing to switch. Somawane reportedly assured them that no new licenses to drive horse carriages will be issued once the existing carriage drivers move to motor rickshaws.

New York activists have voiced similar ongoing concerns about the horse-carriage trade in New York City and are waging an aggressive effort to ban horse-drawn carriages there. Donny Moss, activist and filmmaker, was awarded a 2009 Genesis award by The Humane Society of the U.S. for BLINDERS, his documentary on the horse-carriage industry in New York and the inhumane conditions under which the horses work and live. (  I asked for Donny's opinion on the situation in Mumbai.

 He stated, "Horses shouldn't be pulling carriages in the streets in any urban area, much less Mumbai, which is one of the most congested cities in the world. When horses spook and flee amidst cars and pedestrians, people and horses are invariably injured or killed."

"Even if all of the horses were deemed healthy by veterinarians, the use of horses to pull carriages in any congested urban area is unsafe and inhumane.  

"When animals are used solely to make money for their owners, abuse and neglect are rampant, as demonstrated by the fact that over half of the horses in Mumbai examined by the government needed treatment."

VIDEO FROM MUMBAI;  Mumbai Horse Carriage should be banned

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