ST. LOUIS (CN) - The St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission has abandoned its authority to regulate the carriage horse industry, leaving horses subject to injury and death during the peak holiday season, an animal rights group claims in court.
The St. Louis Animal Rights Team (START) sued the MTC and its executive director Ronald Klein, on Tuesday in City Court.
"The carriage horse industry in St. Louis is widely regarded as a staple of the holiday season," the complaint states. "An entirely unregulated industry under current conditions, the owners of carriage horses are allowed to work their horses without regard for animal health and welfare or public safety. Indeed, since the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission abandoned its authority to regulate the industry, one horse has died of veterinary neglect and another nearly collapsed from heat exhaustion during a summer parade. Carriage horses are easily startled, and because they are vulnerable to exploitation, dozens of horses die from veterinary neglect, car/carriage-horse accidents, or work-related injuries every year in the United States."
START claims the defendants quietly abandoned their duty to regulate the carriage industry in November 2013 and stopped enforcing the Vehicle for Hire Code that pertained to carriages. Since then, there have been several incidents involving carriage horses.
"On December 23, 2013 - just one month after MTC walked away from its statutory obligation to regulate horse-drawn vehicles - a carriage horse named King collapsed and died during the Winter Wonderland carriage rides through Tilles Park, St. Louis County, Missouri. As the statutorily empowered regulatory agency, this incident was within the purview of MTC's authority and responsibilities. On information and belief, Respondents conducted no investigation into this incident and took no enforcement action against King's caretakers."
Another incident happened this summer.
"In July 2014, a carriage horse named Moose was observed in medical distress after pulling a carriage through the streets of the City of St. Louis in extremely hot weather," the complaint states. "As the statutorily empowered regulatory agency, this incident was within the purview of MTC's authority and responsibilities. On information and belief, respondents conducted no investigation into this incident."
START says it has been unable to conduct a full review of either incident due to the defendants' abandonment of their regulatory responsibilities.
They ask St. Louis Circuit Judge David L. Dowd to provide declaratory relief by requiring the MTC to enforce the Vehicle for Hire Code.
START is represented by Daniel J. Kolde.
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