Atlanta Carriage Conference Highlights Huge Conflict of Interest for Police Department

Glitter on the toes cannot hide the fact that this horse is very underweight.

Glitter on the toes cannot hide the fact that this Atlanta carriage horse is very underweight.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Recently,  CONA  (Carriage Operators of North America) which is supposed to be a professional organization for carriage operators,  held their 2014 convention in Atlanta, Georgia.  CONA represents the interests of both special events livery operations as well as the hackline carriages in NYC and elsewhere, although now with two NYC Board of Directors, it would seem that the group’s interest is evolving more towards hackline operations.   Both Nottingham Shire & Carriage  and Fantasy Carriage of Atlanta run curbside operations waiting for fares in downtown Atlanta.  Neither carriage operator’s website depicts what the horse and carriage accommodations really look like, and the Fantasy Carriage website doesn’t even show a pic of a single horse.  There’s a good reason for that.

Complaints about these two operations include, but aren’t limited to inadequate housing facilities for the equines – terrible windowless dungeon-like accommodations or run-in sheds only, as well as….

  • Bad shoeing
  • Lame horses
  • Paddocks filled with deep mud
  • Diaper bags that constantly leak the contents down horses legs
  • Horses in downtown traffic
  • Driving infractions
  • Horses that are retired as unfit being seen on the street shortly thereafter
  • Lack of identification for individual horses
  • Drivers hired and expected to perform their jobs without  general horse knowledge…
  • …and a lack of available water troughs anywhere in the city beyond the confines of the stables themselves.  (Water supplies having been turned off to prevent homeless people from accessing them – speaks volumes about the attitudes towards the homeless too, doesn’t it?)

But one of the most critical problems with the horse drawn carriage industry in Atlanta is lack of enforcement of the laws that govern the carriages and protect the working horses. In Atlanta, the horse drawn carriage

The back of Fantasy Carriage Stables.  Not exactly taken from a page in Martha Stewart Weddings.

The back of Fantasy Carriage Stables. Not exactly taken from a page in Martha Stewart Weddings.

regulations are supposed to be enforced by the officers of the Division of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire, a department headed up by someone who also spoke on behalf of the carriage industry at the CONA convention.  Cedric Burse, a public sector employee working in the police force, has delivered a segment on “dealing with annoying animal rights activists.” Here’s how his talk was described in the CONA agenda:

“CEDRIC A BURSE, Director, Bureau of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire, City of Atlanta Do you need inspiration when it comes to dealing with annoying animal rights activists in your town? Ever wonder about improving communication with your city and your carriage business? Cedric Burse will be discussing these topics among other subjects as he discusses Stakesholders in Atlanta. Included in his conversation he will be discussing his challenges with animal rights activists regarding the horse drawn carriage industry in Atlanta and his unique approach to address the issues regarding both sides. His experience will help you prepare to handle potential problems that may arise in your town. Burse brings twenty years of leadership and management experience to the Atlanta Police Department’s Taxicab and Vehicles for Hire Section.”

Nottingham Carriages Stable after a rain.  The carriage storage area is far superior to the area where the horses have to live,  which is only a run-in shed. Note the raised railway or interstate.  I'm sure they must have fixed it up since the CONA people were going to tour the place - but I guess this is what it looks like when visitors are not expected.  By law, for the care of these horses to comply with the definition of “humane care” they must be provided with shelter from the elements.

Nottingham Carriages Stable after a rain. The carriage storage area is far superior to the area where the horses have to live, which is only a run-in shed. Note the raised railway or interstate. I’m sure they must have fixed it up since the CONA people were going to tour the place – but I guess this is what it looks like when visitors are not expected. By law, for the care of these horses to comply with the definition of “humane care” they must be provided with shelter from the elements.

What is a member of the police force doing advising a private group how to handle lawful protesters and possibly, avoid the law?  And why not counsel these two members of CONA in raising the standards of living for their animals and putting some decent weight on many of them?  Voluntarily fixing a lot of these issues would mean fewer complaints from animal activists,  would it not?

Aside from being an all-around bad idea, Burse’s talk appears to be a rather problematic conflict of interest.  His impartiality and the impartiality of his department now becomes suspect.  In a worse-case scenario, conflict can become misconduct.

Burse holds a position where he may be required to mete out criticism or enforcement to carriage owners, which apparently hardly anyone ever does, because those charged with enforcing the laws are either unwilling or unable to recognize violations or health/lameness issues with horses.  Judging by the agenda description alone, Burse’s little talk does not appear to be any sort of “conflict resolution” themed presentation, but one of dealing with people who make justifiable criticisms of their industry.  The Atlanta Police do have a code of ethics where they are expected to disclose incompatible interests, even though it is better not to allow such conflicts to present themselves in the first place.

Overall, there seems to be a disturbing amount of confusion as to who has the responsibility of enforcing the ordinances relating to the horse drawn carriages. On multiple occasions, officers of the Atlanta Police Department have ignored or refused to respond to calls if the subject of the call was the horse drawn carriages. The Department of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire does not staff an officer at all times the carriages are in operation. On occasions when someone from that department has responded, officers have stated they are not comfortable issuing citations to the carriage drivers because they lack sufficient training and/or knowledge to enforce the ordinances as it relates to equines and/or the equine drawn vehicles.

The issue of enforcement for infractions has been a longstanding problem for Atlanta’s urban horses.  Naturally, all public sector officials have a duty to put the public interest above their own personal or private interests when carrying out their official duties.  They cannot put the interests or individuals or groups ahead of that of the community, or in the case of Atlanta carriage horses – the animals themselves.  If officials have conflicts that are unavoidable, they need to be totally up-front about those conflicts, be they financial, ideological, or personal. Even the appearance alone of a conflict is detrimental to law enforcement activities.

About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic plant-based eater, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

18 responses »

  1.…..Came across this while I was researching sweeny…Many of the carriage horses I see are leaning into the harness with their heads down…which to me it seems the horse is moving the carriage with his front end, hence sweeny can be a problem. The power to move the carriage should come from the hind end. Ill fitting collars seem to be a problem as well as the head held too high. Many of the horses while pulling are not tracking up…sign of another problem. So many pro-carriage people talk about how they love their horses & that they are cherished members of their families….so why would they subject cherished horses to inhale toxic fumes all day? Same logic like sending your child into the coal mines….they bring home a paycheck.

    • Have you got a horse with shoulder atrophy? Collars have to properly fit the horse and just like with a saddle, if the musculature of the horse changes over time, the collar may need to be refit. Pulling is easier on most horses than riding, but yes, the pulling action is largely driven by the hindquarters – when horses pull by the shoulders it looks bad and is less comfortable for them. The horses are tools of an industry. All this “the horses are well cared-for and loved” verbiage is such a common refrain that people repeating it over and over again sound like clones.

      • One of my rescues has sweeny (LUCKY)…hence the name…he was headed for slaughter. He can not be ridden, but over the years he has learned to compensate. He tires very easily when the opposite hoof is picked up to be trimmed. Lucky hardly trots….canters instead on the opposite lead from the injury. I am trying to find some stats on horses that have been harnessed with the end result being sweeny…I think it is very prevalent because as you said people do not adjust the harnesses ect. Many carriage horses of yester-year suffered from sweeny. Most of those poor carriage horses in the cities have a hodge podge of equipment on them & none of those horses look comfortable to me. It is time to end this old fashioned torture to the modern horse.

  2. It seems Cecil is protected. He has lowlife friends in high places. Notice how high and dry he keeps his carriages. Wouldn’t want them to get wet, or anything. It might hurt them and make him look bad.

  3. Contact Sonja Meadows of Animal Angels USA and have her contact any pertinent Atlanta humane officials and enforcement agencies. She can handle training. She did in Texas.
    I don’t know who is dealing with this issue. Is there a local group protesting? NY City has that. I can’t tell from this entry if anyone in Atlanta is active on this abuse.
    Does anyone know or can anyone answer on this question? It seems that this situation calls for action.

  4. Regarding Animal Angels USA investigation, the report is coming. See link:
    With a report, actions need to planned or scheduled so this can be addressed. Any area with these carriage operations are going to be found abusive since the horses are in traffic and on asphalt and in all weather. No equine should ever be in that situation.
    We have known about the sheer stupidity of doing this to horses for a very long time. This trade in abusing horses for ignorant people needs to end. Federal humane law with adequate enforcement funding would be the natural consequence of this endless abuse. States will never enforce adequately.
    Face it, we lose 123 million tax dollars a year in the US due to horseslaughter. How much more would enforcement of ending slaughter and abuses like this cost us?
    While we fight for an end to the tax scam of horseslaughter with an indifferent and corrupt Congress, it seems that this usual outrageous abuse we heap upon horses might be an issue for many metropolitan areas to consider, quickly. In other words, cities notice protests and that embarrasses city officials in media.
    I hope to hear updates soon regarding this ridiculous abuse. Any equine being used needs to be tracked for any shipping off to slaughter. Rescues with adequate medical staff needs to be found for each and every equine. Obviously, sustained funding is a major hurdle.
    Even after any equine goes to a rescue, the presence of that equine needs to be verified afterwards. After the Kelsey Lefever case in PA horseracing, I think it may be a good idea to check out the continued wellbeing of any rescued equine. I guess screened and qualified volunteers would have to handle periodic checks. Soi Dog has this process and it helps them track missing dogs in the dog “meat” trade.

  5. Go ahead, ban me for telling the truth and asking questions. The horses are not lame. The conditions (concrete building) are NATURALLY fireproof. Asphalt was created FOR horse use. You said “Face it, we lose 123 million tax dollars a year in the US due to horse slaughter.” Please document this.

    • Susan, I don’t know why the carriage trade continues to insist that asphalt was invented for horses. That is false. A short google search will reveal the reasons asphalt became a predominant road surface and the reasons had nothing to do with horses and carriages.

      In the last century, the processes used to create asphalt have also produced heavy fuel oil for marine diesel engines and power plants. Asphalt was a by-product of those processes. It is also a natural substance found in oil-bearing rocks. It has been used since biblical times as a waterproof coating and lamp oil.

      The need for roads that could carry heavier loads arose after WWII and with the development and popularity of the CAR. As a result of the popularity of the car and the advent of the AIRPLANE, landing and parking surfaces were also needed, hence the increased use of asphalt. In 1912 there were 900,000 automobiles on the road and by 1920 this had jumped to 7.5 million, now the automobile was driving the progress of road building and in particular highways, along with the relative standards of construction.

  6. Re horse slaughter, the facts are well known. The White House stated losses of 123 million tax dollars a year some time ago. Why would anyone try to defend horse slaughter? There is no need for this old scam and no need to try to somehow defend the abuses and killings. Voters/taxpayers want slaughter gone. We need The SAFE Act and The Past Act passed in Congress and enforcement funded adequately.

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