Government-Appointed Panel Harassed, Threatened and Stopped While Inspecting Horses Used to Pull Carriages in Mumbai

For Immediate Release:
13 August 2012

Dr Manilal Valliyate +91 9820947382; [email protected]
Benazir Suraiya +91 9004547382; [email protected]

PETA and Animal Rahat Veterinarians and Other Committee Members File Complaint Over Abuse by Carriage Owners and Drivers and Their Lawyer

Mumbai – On Sunday, a committee established by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, filed a complaint at the Colaba Police Station against Naresh Kapoor, the lawyer representing the owners and drivers of Mumbai’s horse-drawn carriages, for verbally abusing committee members and encouraging his allies to engage in the same behaviour. In addition, the complaint addresses the way carriage owners and drivers physically abused committee members and interfered with the AWBI’s request that the committee identify sick and injured horses. The AWBI committee included equine experts with many years of technical experience completing equine welfare assessments for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India and Animal Rahat. Per the High Court of Bombay’s 26 July order, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) are to assess the health of horses used to pull carriages in Mumbai and report to the Executive Health Officer of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai so that horses can receive veterinary treatment when needed and carriage owners and drivers who commit violations can be charged with cruelty to animals.

“The High Court of Bombay’s recent order does nothing to stop the suffering of horses used to pull carriages in Mumbai because it allows them to remain in a never-ending cycle of abuse”, says Dr Manilal Valliyate, a member of the Animal Welfare Board of India and PETA’s director of veterinary affairs. “Now the order has become even more meaningless because NGOs are being refused the opportunity to inspect the horses. Evidence gathered over many years showing that horses used to pull carriages are often malnourished, lame, injured or kept in illegal stables has already been submitted to the court. Many horses collapse and die from exhaustion and create a traffic hazard. The only answer to ending this suffering is a total ban on the use of horse-drawn carriages in Mumbai.”

Despite being blocked, the committee members conducted an inspection at a distance until they were stopped. They concluded that even severely lame animals were being forced to work. Many of the horses had injuries on their legs that were hidden by the drivers, who apply lime powder to the wounds and then cover them with cloth. Many horses were fitted illegally with spiked bits and poor-quality, broken saddles, which cause the horses discomfort and pain. Horses were forced to work in the rain and pull carriages that exceeded the legal limit of four passengers. The committee concluded that The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and The Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965, had clearly been violated. The committee will now submit its evidence in the form of photographs and video footage to the High Court of Bombay and to the AWBI.

Lawyer Ambika Hiranandani reports that People for Animals inspectors also suffered physical and verbal abuse last Friday at the hands of carriage owners and drivers and were forced to stop their inspection.

Copies of AWBI’s order, the High Court of Bombay’s recent order and the committee’s police complaint are available upon request. For more information, please visit