Carriage horse falls, wrongly pronounced dead by social media
In an age when everybody has a camera and a Facebook page, it seemed for sure, for a while, that the carriage horse was dead.
And even when it was plain that the horse was alive, it didn't lessen the animosity between those who want horse-drawn carriages off the streets of Philadelphia, and those who think animal activists live to create drama.
It was about 5 p.m. Saturday, when the horse, Silver, stumbled and fell near 7th and Sansom streets in Center City.
Juan Carlos Cruz, who on Twitter describes himself as a communications executive in Philadelphia, posted a photo of the white horse lying on its side in the street, the carriage awkwardly turned toward the sidewalk. He wrote, "This cruelty to horses has to stop in Philly. . . . Horse cannot get up."
Dan Kois, an editor for Slate magazine in Washington, D.C., happened to be walking by the scene of police and pedestrians. He tweeted: "Super fun day in Philly but the highlight was that neither kid noticed the carriage accident nor the dead horse in the middle of 8th St."
A woman posted to The Inquirer's Facebook page that an accident occurred where "the horse was killed and the driver injured and it didn't even make the local news. ... I don't want this accident to get swept under the rug but it looks like that is exactly what is going to happen."
The carriage company posted a summary of what happened on its Facebook page, then took it down. Then the Peace Advocacy Network issued a news release: Weekend Carriage Accident Cover-up in Philly?
Except there doesn't seem to be a cover-up.
Philadelphia police said on Monday it appeared the horse fell after it slipped or tripped on a manhole cover, and was alive when taken from the scene. No vehicle was involved, police said.
A manager at 76 Carriage Co. said Monday that Silver is well. After the 1,800-pound animal fell, police had its handler ensure it stayed down until animal-care-and-control officials could be summoned. Eventually, the horse was raised to its feet by straps connected to a tractor, said Linda Kramer, a stable manager.
The horse walked without aid into a trailer, and was met at the stables by the veterinarian, she said. The firm provided a photo and video of the horse in its stall, images it said were taken after the accident, along with a report by Ambler veterinarian Dale Schilling that concluded, "Horse is fine."
Which doesn't mean people who saw the animal weren't concerned and upset.
Kois said he was walking west on Walnut Street with his children when he saw the animal down on the street. The horse wasn't moving, though he couldn't tell for sure whether it was alive or dead. "I was busy just being glad my kids didn't look," he said.
Many people believe it's cruel to horses, and dangerous to drivers and pedestrians, to have large animals traversing city streets, ferrying tourists to attractions.
Last year, a woman was hospitalized after the carriage she was operating hit two cars in Old City. The horse became startled and trotted into traffic, police said. In 2010, three people were hurt when a car hit a carriage on Independence Mall, triggering a chain-reaction crash involving two other coaches.
Horse-drawn carriages have been controversial in Philadelphia and elsewhere, including New York, where mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has pledged to phase out carriages.
"At least once a year we have some sort of carriage accident," said Ed Coffin, a spokesperson for the peace network, an animal-rights and social-justice agency that seeks to ban carriages. He's worried someone may be killed before the issue is taken more seriously.
Kramer, the carriage-company manager, said Saturday's accident was overblown by activists who "don't really want the truth."
She removed the Facebook summary after receiving rude and accusatory responses, she said.
"The horse is fine," she said. "The activists like to be very dramatic."