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Press Stories 1980-2004
Fury Unbridled Northway Death Trail Unstopped
Barney Fowler Staff Writer
WESTPORT - Brutal treatment of horses bound for death in Canadian slaughter house's, a pitiless and wild descent into horror for the animals which are jammed into trailers without food or water for as long as three days, has aroused unprecedented fury throughout the eastern fringe of the Adirondacks. So much so that the North Country Society of' Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has doubled efforts for an amendment to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets law which governs method of movement. Such an amendment has been offered in the past. The Assembly passed the bill: the Senate held it in committee for reasons unknown. It once again has been prefiled in the Assembly by Assemblyman Robert D'Andrea, Saratoga Springs, and State Senators Hugh Farley of Niskayuna and Joseph Bruno of Rensselaer County. Its fate remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the torture continues.
Heading the SPCA battle is Dr. Robert A. Lopez. Lake Shore Road, Westport, Essex County, the veterinarian called by State Police to inspect and treat horses involved in the must recent and gruesome instance, when a load of 85 ponies and yearling horses, packed into a trailer designed for 35, was stopped Dec. 12 on the Northway, Town of Schroon, by Troopers Bob Carlson and Ed Haroff. State Police acted on information given by an alert gas station attendant at Pottersville, who while pumping gas into the mobile charnel house, noted a dead animal in the trailer.
More than one were found dead There were five. Four had been trampled One, next to the open slats on the trailer, in close contact with frigid winds, had frozen stiff. Four more had to be destroyed on the spot after unloading. Many were suffering from pneumonia, bronchitis, equine distemper and broken bones. One pony had an eye gouged out in the fierce struggle to remain alive. Excrement, solid and liquid, covered the metal floor. They were temporarily quartered at a corral in Frontier Town, North Hudson for watering, feeding and medical treatment. They have since been moved to the Bruce Crammond farm in Ticonderoga, where continued medical treatment - medicines and vitamins -has been given daily. Of the original 85, only 57 remain alive.
One pony is -about to foal; she has been separated into private quarters. The animals are under quarantine. Canada has refused entry until all trace of disease vanishes. Hay has been donated, two area farmers each controlled 100 bales. Monetary contributions have been arriving to Dr. and Mrs. Lopez not only from horrified New York state residents, but from individuals in Quebec and Vermont. More than 75 persons wish to purchase the, survivors, but even the number of the those may diminish.
"We are doing our very best." said Crammond, who deals in domestic stock, "but some of them still look pretty bad."
Many today show affection instead of despair. The question remains as to ultimate disposition. Perfecta International, the Florida outfit which owns the horses and contracted to have them shipped to Canada for conversion into meat for the tables in France and Japan, was contacted by Lopez, who told this writer company representatives are "very indignant about the trouble we've caused them."
Rental and board is being charged the Florida-based company. What is hoped is that the rental eventually will top the value of the survivors, and Perfecta will drop the whole situation. At full value, the 85 horses represented about $40,000. As horses die, the load value diminishes. And there will be no release until the horses are certified as free from disease. That's the situation as of now.
Arresting drivers, as was done in the case described, obviously is not the solution to elimination of the "Torture Trail" which the Northway has become. The two arrested in this case were fined $150 each and. released. They were charged with transporting animals in a cruel and inhumane manner. Lopez and others feels the law should be stronger, have more teeth. He is not alone- Ingvar Berg, executive secretary of the, Northeastern Harness Horsemen's Association, Saratoga Springs, says,
"Two years ago State Senator Farley and Assemblyman Bobby D'Andrea introduced legislation to prevent this kind of cruelty. Unfortunately the Department of Agriculture and Markets did not back the bill, and the Humane Society was nowhere in sight. Exposure of this problem. hopefully will bring needed legislature this coming session."
Brutal Horse Horror Goes On
The bill mentioned is, essentially, the one prefiled for whatever action the legislature deems fit. It also includes what the North Country SPCA desires in some instances. Lopez feels all horses transported should have health certificates signed by a veterinarian. He wants horses fed and watered every 24 hours. He wants maximum load limits; there are none today. He points out there is no New York or federal law existing which in specific governs horse shipment by van or truck. He plans to bring his own comments to the American Horse Council, Humane Society of the United States, and to the Society for Animal Protection.
He is insistent upon new, humane laws. He is angry over current methods. He feels that the shipment of horses from the U.S. to Canada for slaughter - estimated at more than 10,000 a year - will eventually tend to destroy the horse population in this country; he speaks not of racing animals, because these, in their more prime are financial and stud assets, and are treated accordingly: one might say pampered.
Lopez feels many of the horses and ponies he has treated in past years, as well as in the December instance, were once house pets, privately owned, well cared for, and sold for different reasons. His experience in the past has led to his strong anger.
It was early in the 1970s that brutal treatment was first noted on the Northway, and State Police began to systematically crack down. In one instance, in 1973, a load was stopped after part of the flooring had given way, and horses' legs were dangling underneath, banging against the pavement like broken mufflers on a car.
Suggested improvements in transportation call for flooring to prevent horses from skidding; adequate, not overpowering ventilation; partitions and door-ways of sufficient height to allow a space of 12 inches above the withers of the tallest horse to be transported to its death. Also suggested are two doorways, one for entry, one for exit. No sharp projections would be allowed inside the van, that is jagged and broken pieces of metal. These are not comfort facilities. Lopez is insistent also upon, adequate feeding and watering.
One reason given for lack of watering on long trips from the south into Canada is to "lessen water weight," in other words, water weight cannot be turned into steaks or roasts.
There is little question that the entire situation must be reviewed. Jim Provost. manager of the Schenectady Animal Shelter, and a vice-president of the New York State Humane Association, is a law enforcement officer for the SPCA. He feels every section of existing laws on transportation should be rigidly enforced, and he also feels that rather than instituting one charge for a load of horses, individual ones for each horse should be made, This would mean, in an instance where 85 were being moved, that 85 charges could be preferred - all of them misdemeanors, punishable by a year in jail, a fine up to $500, or both. Provost offers his services to patrol the Northway specifically for violations.
"I must say in 33 years of service with the New York State Police I seldom observed this type of gratuitous maltreatment of animals that, with a minimal amount of humane consideration and care, could assuredly be prevented.....
Retired NYSP Captain Alfred Crary
Download a card and carry in your car. Help enforce PA law banning the use of double deck trailers to transport any horse, no matter what its final destination!
Note: Dr. Lopez traveled to Gettysburg, PA at the request and the expense of the EPN to testify before the PA House Judiciary Committe on the PA Horse Transport Law. Thank you Dr. Lopez for all your help and dedication to the horses that the horse industry threw away.