By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
MORE than 1,000 people from around the world have signed a petition calling on the Bahamian government to ‘stop the abuse’ of the country’s carriage horses.
The petition’s creator and local horse trainer, Paula Caruana said yesterday she doesn’t necessarily want to ban the surrey industry but simply have it better regulated by the government.
Ms Caruana’s internet-based petition was inspired by the recent public death of a surrey horse which outraged many and spurred calls for an investigation into the working conditions of the horses.
The 22-year-old female horse, named Bloody Mary, was drawing a yellow and blue surrey near the corner of Dowdeswell and Christie Streets on Tuesday afternoon when it collapsed.
Witnesses said tourists were in the carriage and following the horse’s collapse, the animal was tied to the back of a truck and dragged out of the street – reportedly at the insistence of the police.
Ms Caruana said she never expected her petition, which has gathered signatures from Vietnam to Poland, to get as big as it has.
“I decided to do it because so many people have tried before and the problem is they’ve been doing it by themselves. What I would like to do is try and get a campaign together, not necessarily to ban them, but to get the government to support them a little more,” she said.
Her petition asks the government to ‘stop this brutality’ and enforce stricter legislation, such as an Animal Rights Bill, to regulate the conditions of the industry and the health of the animals.
The petition also criticises the downtown Nassau route the carriages take.
“Horses (are) made to work in horrendous heat through the polluted and crazy streets of Nassau with no food or water and no conditions for up to eight hours a day,” the petition claims.
Ms Caruana said yesterday she hopes the route could be changed.
“I mean really what do the tourists get out of it, going downtown in all this traffic, breathing in all the fumes?” she said.
“They’re not seeing the real Bahamas and it’s a shame because The Bahamas has so much to offer and it’s such a beautiful place.
“We need to encourage the government to help these guys to perhaps move their location somewhere better.”
The horses’ stable conditions have been criticised by animal rights groups, and Ms Caruana suggests there should be another location to house the animals.
“I think there should be a place where a small barn could be built to house these horses - where they get food, water and shelter. Where they have a bed for the night and there is somebody who’s employed to look after these horses, to make sure that they’re cared for,” Ms Caruana said.
“I’m not saying that every single surrey horse is in a really bad way and I’m not saying every surrey horse does not have a good bed... One of the comments on the petition was from a surrey owner who said he was embarrassed, ashamed to be a surrey owner at this time.”
Better veterinarian care and ensuring the horses’ health are adequate before they are cleared to work are also suggestions.
“Yesterday it was she (Bloody Mary) died of old age, today it’s she had a heart condition. Well why is the horse out there? Why is the horse not being vetted before it goes out? If that horse had a heart condition then she shouldn’t have been on the road doing the amount of work that she was doing,” Ms Caruana said.
She says her petition is not aimed at completely stopping the industry or attacking surrey owners but instead is aimed at calling attention to the conditions of an industry which she and many others feel is often overlooked.
“I think too many people are just jumping on the bandwagon to ban these horses and I don’t think it’s all about just the surrey drivers.
“There are a lot of people involved who are to blame for the conditions, a lot of people who can do things to regulate it and there’s nothing really being done,” she said.
“I understand the government wants to keep it going and so does the Ministry of Tourism but they really need to support these guys in doing it... I have so many ideas about how this could work if they get the support of the government.
“This horse that died is not the first and if we don’t do something she won’t be the last.”
As of Friday afternoon, the ‘Stop ABUSE of Carriage Horses in the Bahamas’ petition had 1,110 signatures.