Animal Legal Defense Fund Asks Court to Force Regulation of St. Louis Carriage Horse IndustryPosted on December 2, 2014
Lawsuit Filed to Compel Metro Taxi Commission to Enforce Laws Protecting Carriage Horses
For immediate release:
Megan Backus, ALDF
Lisa Franzetta, ALDF
ST. LOUIS — Today, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a petition on behalf of the St. Louis Animal Rights Team (START) against the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission and its executive director Ronald Klein for failing to enforce legal regulations against the city’s horse-drawn carriage industry. According to the petition, the commission quietly stopped enforcing Section 608 of the Vehicle for Hire Code and related Director’s Rules in November 2013 without public debate, notice, or justification. The writ of mandamus and request for declaratory judgment was filed with the St. Louis City Circuit Court.
Public records indicate that by November 2013, the commission ceased enforcing regulatory requirements that include provisions for animal welfare, veterinary care, housing, and work restrictions for the horses. Just one month later, a horse named King died during carriage rides at St. Louis County’s annual “Winter Wonderland” event in Ladue. King was owned by Eureka-based Brookdale Farms, which the commission had previously investigated after multiple complaints of neglect and malnourishment. Veterinarians sent by the commission in 2010 reported that all horses at Brookdale Farms were deprived of adequate food, and many—including Elmo, Rocket, Ben, Wilbur, Hercules, and Lightning—were malnourished.
In July 2014, ALDF sent a formal letter demanding that the commission enforce county animal welfare laws regarding the city’s carriage industry—including a full investigation of Brookdale Farms. In that same month, a carriage-horse named Moose nearly collapsed in front of the St. Louis City Health Director after a carriage ride. Onsite veterinarians cited heat exhaustion and overwork as the cause of Moose’s collapse. Public outcry over Moose’s mistreatment led to the commission’s admission that it had ceased enforcing regulations that protect carriage-horses. Yet, the commission refused to change its stance or engage in settlement negotiations. ALDF is asking the court to compel the commission to enforce the law.
“This industry, now virtually unregulated, forces horses into dangerous urban environments and the horses are suffering for it,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “The Metro Taxicab Commission knows about these inhumane and unsafe conditions, yet does nothing—and that’s why ALDF has to ask the court to step in and insist that the commission do its job.”
Copies of the petition are available upon request.