Center for Cart Horses

by Martha Gutiérrez Center for Cart Horses

In spite of living in the 21st century, Argentina is a country where horses are still used to haul carts with heavy loads. The economic and social conditions of Argentina are bad. Much of the middle-class has disappeared because of high unemployment. The people who were already poor have duplicated their poverty. The equines are the domestic species who are suffering the most in Argentina, because they are condemned to work under miserable conditions for people who cannot afford to care for them.

The horses work though they may be weak, wounded or pregnant. Many are not provided food, water or sufficient rest during the whole work day. The harnesses do not fit properly and inflict injuries. It is common to see the horses without horseshoes or having to carry loads that are too large for them to handle. They are pushed to work regardless and suffer by force of whip or chain. It is common to see horses missing an eye. Veterinary care, including vaccines against common diseases, is not given.

Regulations were adopted in Buenos Aires in 1960 prohibiting the entrance and transit of carts drawn by horses in the capital city. However, the law has never been enforced. After working for many years on this difficult issue, finally the current government of Buenos Aires listened to us and began enforcing the law. In addition, the head of the city of Buenos Aires, gave us a piece of land to create a site dedicated to mitigating the suffering of the horses.

We inaugurated the Center for Cart Horses (CCH) on the 27th of January, 2003, and since then we have received 470 horses. Most of them have been sick and injured. Before we rescue them, the equines have been worked to the bone and passed from one owner to another until the animals are unable to work any more. If not rescued, they are sold to a slaughterhouse to produce meat.

In enforcing the law, the federal police stop the violator, confiscate the wagon and call us so we can send an equine trailer to pick up the horse and bring the victim to the Center. The equines are held until the transgressor pays a fine. During the time the horses are with us our vet examines them to see if they have been the victim of bad treatment by means of punishment or negligence. If the animal is in good condition, the horse is given back to the proprietor with a warning not to enter the capital any more. If there is evidence of cruelty, we take legal action, and we can retain the horses until the court case is heard and a judgment rendered. Once a month we offer a short course on equines for those who could benefit from education.

Recently we received a mare who had given birth while working in the streets. Unfortunately, the foal was premature and died. We responded by bringing a cruelty case against the owner for forcing the mare to work when pregnant.

It is difficult to obtain donations for this cause in Argentina. Funds are needed for food, the veterinarian and medications. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Please send contributions to AWI and note the funds are for the CCH.