Atlanta Carriage Horse Investigation

Animals' Angels
PO Box 1056 Westminster, MD 21158
April 2014  

The "Romantic" Carriage Ride   


Many people don't realize that Atlanta, Georgia is home to a booming carriage horse industry. While we are tempted to envision romance, green pastures and joyful rides when we think about horse carriages, reality is quite different.


The life of a carriage horse involves long work hours, exposure to extreme temperatures, ingesting exhaust fumes, and contending with congested traffic and aggravated drivers. Like New York City, the busy streets of Atlanta are no place for horses. Accidents involving horse drawn carriages have already resulted in severe bodily harm of non-expecting passengers.


See news story on Atlanta, GA carriage horse accident here  

overloaded carriage
While the accident was not the carriage driver's fault, the incident still makes it very clear that there is no room for horse drawn carriages in the 21st century traffic of Atlanta.
Animals' Angels has taken a closer look at the situation in Atlanta, after receiving multiple calls from individuals concerned about the conditions and the treatment of the carriage horses.

The investigation showed that carriages are often overloaded with passengers and horses are forced to work with rubbing harnesses, causing sores to develop, fester, and become infected. Multiple horses with bleeding, open wounds were documented.   
carriage horse with open sore
Several horses were observed pulling carriages with shoes that were ill-fitting, which can lead to lameness and other issues. Access to water for the horses during their work shifts is questionable, since the only freely available source has been turned off since July 2013. (Please see full length report for more details.)
Respiratory problems are also a concern as this video, taken June 1st, 2013, clearly confirms. The footage shows carriage horse "Misty" (owned by Fantasy Stables) struggling to breathe and being left unattended for an extended period of time.

A formal complaint was filed with the Equine Health Section of the GA Department of AG and Misty was checked by a veterinarian, who determined that Misty suffered from a condition known as anhidrosis. A horse with anhidrosis is unable to sweat effectively, causing body heat to quickly rise to dangerous levels. The veterinarian advised that she was not fit to be used as a carriage horse because of this condition. According to public documents, the horse was removed from the working horse group on 6/17/13. However, Misty apparently was observed working again on 3/1/14 and according to the GA Department of AG a veterinarian released her back to work. What happened?

Horse drawn carriages fall under two separate divisions of code enforcement.  The first is the Atlanta Police Department's Division of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire (DTVH), which currently licenses two companies. The second enforcement agency tasked with protecting the carriage horses is the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Animals' Angels requested information about existing complaints, investigations, and horse health certificates from both agencies. DTVH claimed that they did not have any complaints on file and that health certificates and evidence of veterinary care and/or visits were unavailable.


After several months and multiple requests, the Department of Agriculture provided their files. The documents reveal that during the past few years, countless complaints were filed against both carriage horse companies. However, there is very little evidence showing that any of the complaints filed with the Department of Agriculture were being investigated properly or even taken seriously.

poor living conditions

For instance, on 2/25/11, their Equine Division received a complaint from the Atlanta Police Department about a Fantasy Stables carriage horse being "down and potentially injured."  When Animals' Angels requested more information about this incident, both the police department and the Georgia Department of AG responded that there were no records available.  Mat Thompson from the Equine Division of the GA Department of AG stated in an email: "Concerning the horse that went down in 2011, we never saw this horse. He was treated by a vet and removed to the owner's private farm. This incident was late at night. The vet said he had a virus."  Rather than investigating the situation as they should have done, the Department of AG simply ignored the complaint since no follow-up was ever conducted.

inadequate roofing

Multiple complaints were also made regarding the poor living conditions for the carriage horses. For example, during times of heavy rainfall the dirt lot where the Nottingham Shire horses are kept turns into a muddy mess, with water pooling in several areas. Additionally, the open stalls do not offer nearly enough protection from the elements.


Click here to read the full length investigative report 


These horses obviously don't have the ability to protect themselves, so we must rely on  the agencies in charge to do their job and make sure the horses are being cared for as stipulated by the law. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case. The agencies are failing and it's the horses that end up suffering.   

open stalls in pouring rain

We ask that you please respond to our CALL FOR ACTION.   Contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture Equine Division and the Department of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire demanding that they increase inspections and perform their enforcement duties.  The horses deserve better.  They certainly deserve no less.


Mat Thompson, Manager, Equine Health

Georgia Department of Agriculture Equine Division

19 Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr., S.W.
Atlanta, Georgia  30334

Phone: (404) 656-3713

Fax: (404) 463-2128



Cedric Burse, Manager of DTVH

Charles Obierika, Supervisor of Carriage Horses/DTVH
Division of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire

818 Pollard Blvd Sw Suite 241
Atlanta, Georgia 30315

Phone: (404) 546-3090 



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Animals' Angels works to improve conditions for farm animals. We closely cooperate with law enforcement and government agencies to fight animal cruelty. Our investigators are out in the field nationwide, visiting auctions, feedlots and slaughter plants.



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PO Box 1056

Westminster, MD 21158