Animal Welfare Board Advises Maharashtra Government to Implement Rehabilitation Plan to Protect Mumbai Horses Used to Haul Carriages

For Immediate Release:
2 December 2016

Dr Manilal Valliyate; [email protected]
Shambhavi Tiwari; [email protected]

Board Acts Based on Inspection During Which Five Horses Were Seized by the Mumbai Police

Mumbai – Following an inspection report submitted by a veterinarian and animal-welfare officers from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, Animal Rahat, and People for Animals (PFA), the central government advisory body Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) advised the Maharashtra government to present a rehabilitation plan immediately to the Bombay High Court for the Victoria owners, drivers, and horses in Mumbai. This presentation to the court was directed by the Supreme Court on 24 April 2016. AWBI also wrote to the police commissioner of Mumbai urging him to stop cruelty to horses.

The inspection report and AWBI advisories to the chief secretary of Maharashtra and police commissioner of Mumbai can be viewed here.

The AWBI-authorised inspectors acted on the 8 June 2015 directive of the Bombay High Court, which allowed PETA and PFA to point out instances of apparent legal violations in Mumbai’s Victoria industry to the police, who are required by law to take action in accordance with the provisions of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, and other relevant laws. Their report documented that horses forced to haul carriages in the city continue to suffer. In three separate surprise inspections, Mumbai police and inspectors seized a total of six horses with wounds and very poor body condition (including protruding rib cages and pelvic bones) from roads where horse-drawn carriages are restricted from plying. The horses were also found to be suffering from anaemia, swollen joints and tendons, and foot diseases and were forced to give carriage rides while hungry and dehydrated and with banned spiked bits that had been forced into their mouths. Other carriage drivers escaped with their horses before they could be caught. The police registered non-cognisable offence complaints against the carriage owners and drivers under the PCA Act, 1960, and the seized horses were sent to The Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals hospital in Parel for veterinary treatment and care as well as much-needed rest.

“In its judgement, the Honourable Bombay High Court has already held that the horse carriages in Mumbai are illegal because they are not entitled to licences for conveyance and the stables used for horses are unlicenced”, says Dr Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs for PETA. “The delay on submitting a rehabilitation plan to the court is not only allowing the continued abuse of horses but also endangering the health and safety of the public since horses and cars do not mix.”

PETA and PFA have met with various state government officials, including the Maharashtra chief secretary and the municipal commissioner of Mumbai, urging them to submit a rehabilitation plan for horse-carriage owners, drivers, and animals to the Bombay High Court immediately, as per the directive of the Supreme Court, so that the use of cruel, dangerous, and illegal horses-drawn carriages in Mumbai can come to an end.

Accidents involving horse-drawn carriages have caused numerous injuries, some of which have been fatal, including the death of a 3-year-old child who was thrown from a carriage after a passing car startled a horse.

Finally, through a resolution on 10 November 2016, the Maharashtra government set up a cabinet sub-committee headed by State Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar to discuss providing owners and drivers of Victorias with hawkers’ licences from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and then submit a report to the government. This rehabilitation proposal was discussed by the state cabinet on 25 October.

In April, the Supreme Court directed carriage owners to withdraw their special leave petition, which sought permission to continue to operate horse carriages in Mumbai, and informed them that they needed to approach the Bombay High Court by way of a review petition. The carriage owners’ appeal to the Supreme Court followed the 8 June 2015 Bombay High Court ruling that horse-drawn carriages must be phased out of Mumbai within a year. Although the Supreme Court allowed the carriage owners to ply their trade for a period of six more months or until the pendency of a review petition, it called for the Maharashtra state government to develop its scheme for the rehabilitation of the carriage owners and drivers as per the Bombay High Court order. However, until now, no such review petition seems to have been filed, and so far, the state government has not yet proposed any scheme to rehabilitate the horses or the people involved in the trade.

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