Happy trails: Philly carriage horses from decaying stables will be sent to sanctuary

Happy trails: Philly carriage horses from decaying stables will be sent to

A Philly carriage horse company whose decrepit stables were cited for numerous animal welfare violations over the summer will close by 2018, after the company agreed to surrender their horses to an animal sanctuary.

“It’s a wonderful Christmas present for the horses,” said Janet White, founder of the Carriage Horse Freedom activist group, who first documented the code violations at the Callowhill stables of Philadelphia Carriage Companies (PCC). “This is a good outcome.” 

The agreement was finalized Thursday after the city filed an emergency injunction demanding the immediate forfeiture of horses DaVinci, Little Blue and Tucker, and the closure of the business. 

That step was precipitated after, on Nov. 28, an ACCT Philly (Animal Care & Control Team) employee saw PCC working horses that had been ordered off the streets for medical reasons, including DaVinci, who suffered from “chronic respiratory illness problems linked to the deplorable conditions of PCC’s makeshift stables,” according to court papers.

Instead of being forced to close, PCC owner Hanhee Yoo agreed to close her business by the end of 2017.

She agreed to transfer her eight horses to the Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue in Mt. Airy, Maryland, which rehabilitates and former draft horses, the larger, working-breed horses.

“These horses will all end up in absolutely wonderful places for the rest of their lives,” said Christine Hajek, founder and president of Gentle Giants, which currently has a herd of 105 horses on its 250 acres. “First we get them healthy, then we evaluate them physically. Then we look at their training, determine what we think their next suitable job would be, and then we look for their next home. If that home never comes, they stay with us for the rest of their life.”

PCC, one of two Philly companies that operate carriage horse tours, was cited over the summer for numerous code and animal welfare violations found at the 100-year-old former wire spring factory it uses for stables near 13th and Spring Garden. 

City inspectors found animals covered in their own urine and excrement, with some horses in stables too narrow for them to turn around, and suspended PCC’s license. Yoo appealed the violations in court and her attorney was still fighting the case when this settlement was reached.

“It’s a good ending,” said City Councilman Mark Squilla, who participated in inspections of the stables and negotiations to protect the horses. “The well-being of the animals will be looked at and hopefully the horses will be kept in good conditions.” 

The city’s other horse-drawn tour company, 76 Carriage Tours, passed its inspections over the summer. Squilla said the difference between the two companies’ stables was “like night and day.” But some horse-lovers say that isn’t enough and want all horse-carriage tours ended.

“Yes, they’re not as bad, but they certainly don’t come close to meeting the needs of a horse,” PETA campaign manager Marianne Bessey said of other stable companies. “They’re still forced to lug tourists around and spend all day in traffic breathing exhaust fumes. It’s not a natural environment. … The next step is a full ban on horse-drawn carriage tours.” 

Whether or not that takes place remains to be seen, but for now, DaVinci and the other PCC horses will get the care they need, Hajek said. 

“I’d imagine at some time, most of them will be available for adoption, but that won’t happen right away,” Haje said. “Every horse is going to be cared for.”