Driver charged more than year after New York City carriage horse collapse, death

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Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Driver charged more than a year after carriage horse collapse, death
Michelle Charlesworth has the latest details on the investigation.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Charges have been filed more than a year after a carriage horse was caught on video collapsing in New York City months before he ultimately died.

The video fueled protests and calls to ban horse-drawn carriages in the city.

On Wednesday, prosecutors charged 54-year-old horse handler Ian McKeever with one misdemanor count of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals, failure to provide proper sustenance.

Ryder, a 26-year-old horse, collapsed on the street in Hell's Kitchen in August of 2022 after working hours in 84 degree heat. The viral video that captured the incident showed the horse on the ground and being beaten by his driver.

After the incident, Ryder retired to a farm upstate to receive veterinary care but was euthanized several months later due to his poor health.

"As alleged, Ryder should not have been working on this hot summer day. Despite his condition, he was out for hours and worked to the point of collapse," said District Attorney Alvin Bragg. "All animals deserve to be treated with the utmost care and the type of abuse that Ryder allegedly suffered is unacceptable."

Prosecutors say McKeever had been working with Ryder in Central Park since 9:20 a.m. and the horse looked thin, frail and was walking slowly while panting with his tongue out.

When the horse collapsed just after 5 p.m. it is alleged that McKeever tried to force him to stand by pulling on the reins and using a whip. Prosecutors say he did not provide any water to the horse despite the warm temperatures.

Ryder only worked as a carriage horse for four months before he collapsed. Paperwork listed his age as 13 even though he was actually old enough to retire.

There were fireworks after the court appearance Wednesday as animal rights activists went after McKeever.

McKeever said he has never harmed a horse in his life. HIs defense attorney also questioned why it has taken so long for any charges to be filed.

"It's taken them a whole year to decide to prosecute this case? Are you out of your mind, people have known about this, this case is politicized," said defense attorney Raymond Loving.

Animal Rights activist Edita Birnkrant with NYCLASS tore into McKeever on the sidewalk. Birnkrant calls what happened cruel animal abuse which she believes should be a felony and fraud.

"This is the equivalent of an 85-year-old person that was sick with cancer as we found out during the necropsy and other ailments," Birnkrant said.

Birnkrant says Ryder's treatment and end of life is not isolated.

"We know criminal animal abuse is going on every day to these horses," Birnkrant said. "They are at our mercy, and everyone is failing them. We want this shut down, we want the City Council to pass Ryder's law."

The case goes back to court in December.

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