Plug pulled on Atlantic City diving horse plan

With a social media campaign underway, petitions circulating and protests planned, the owner of Atlantic City's Steel Pier scrapped plans to resurrect the diving horse show. 

"Instead of trying to rekindle the past, we're going to preserve history and nostalgia in a new way," said Anthony Catanoso, the Steel Pier's president in the Daily News.

The spectacle of horses diving 30 to 40 feet off a platform into a pool below was a major attraction at the Pier beginning in the 1920s. Animal rights protests in the 1970s and in 1993 led the show's end.

When animal activists got word Catanoso was planning to revive what they considered a cruel act cyber campaigns were launched to stop it. Among them was Collegeville, PA resident Tracy Chafin who created a Facebook page "Horses Don't Fly in AC." 

Chafin was in the process of organizing a protest at the Casino Board meeting next week in Atlantic City.

Catanoso, who is overseeing the pier's multi-million renovation, dismissed the activists and said their objections did not influence his decision. (For more from the developer see the Star-Ledger piece here. The Star-Ledger also unearthed the vintage film clip below.)

Now some animal advocates say they are sending thank you notes and even flowers to Catanoso - at least that's what PETA says it's doing.

"PETA commends the owners of the pier for dropping their plans for "The Diving Horse" in favor of fun, animal-friendly entertainment," the group said in a statement.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, had just sent out his blog on the subject late this afternoon when he got word the diving horse plan was nixed.

“This is a merciful end to a colossally stupid idea," he said.  "We are pleased so many citizens spoke up and urged that this spectacle never get off the ground.  Horse diving has the potential to frighten and injure and kill horses, and it rightly belongs in Atlantic City’s history books.”