Vigil Tuesday for dead Salt Lake City carriage horse
Jerry, the Salt Lake City carriage horse, has died.
Blaine Overson, Jerry's owner, confirmed the 13-year-old horse died on Friday, about a week after he collapsed while pulling a carriage in downtown Salt Lake City.
The revelation prompted the Utah Animal Rights Coalition to call for a vigil for Jerry from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the northwest corner of the Salt Lake City and County Building, 451 S. State Street. According to the group's Hangtime page, the vigil will demand justice for Jerry."
UARC organizers say those attending the vigil plan to walk to the 7 p.m. Salt Lake City Council meeting to offer a petition calling for "a complete ban on horse carriages on the streets of Salt Lake City," as well as to speak out during a public comment session.
In calling for the ban, UARC contends that, "Horses forced to pull carriages in Salt Lake City are overworked in miserable weather extremes, subjected to the dangers of congested traffic, and forced to walk on hard asphalt for several hours each day."
Such "dangerous conditions are inherent to the use of horse-drawn carriages in an urban environment," the group maintains, adding that "no amount of regulation can protect the public from the danger of horses bolting when they become frightened."
A passer-by's video of Jerry's struggle to stand back up caught widespread attention, prompting calls from animal-rights advocates for new city laws to address practices surrounding carriage horses.
Blaine and Annette Overson, who own the business Carriage for Hire, have said that a veterinarian diagnosed Jerry with colic. The Oversons say the carriage horses are well-cared-for and are not abused or overworked.
"We loved Jerry," Blaine Overson said. "We love all of our horses."
But officials in the mayor's office said the Oversons should have announced Jerry's death earlier.
"We are â¦ extremely disappointed that the owners of Carriage for Hire chose not to publicly share this information in a timely manner," according to a press release from Mayor Ralph Becker. "Following this series of events, the appropriate action for the City is to decide whether or not continuing to license carriage businesses is a good fit for our community."
The Oversons care for 17 horses and operate all carriage rides around downtown Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City Councilman Charlie Luke, who is leading the inquiry into carriage horse practices, said that he called Blaine Overson to schedule an appointment to visit Carriage for Hire's stables, "to learn more about the business."
Luke said Blaine Overson confirmed Jerry's death after Luke asked to see Jerry given weekend turmoil over photographs Annette Overson sent to the media of a purportedly healthy horse she identified as Jerry.
In conversations Saturday, Annette Overson said that after Jerry collapsed in downtown Salt Lake City on Aug. 17, she sent photos of a different horse because she was "sick of seeing my horses laying down and so I sent a picture of a horse standing up."
Overson called the decision a "stupid mistake" that she regrets.
Jeremy Beckham, a People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals research project manager, had said the photos raised questions about Jerry's condition and whereabouts.
The Oversons would not say where Jerry had been taken. Annette Overson said Jerry was moved after his collapse because she and her company were receiving violent threats. She decided to clamp down on information, she explained, which included removing Jerry. She said she wanted to protect Jerry's caretakers.
Annette Overson on Saturday told The Tribune that Jerry was still alive. Blaine Overson said he did not break the news of Jerry's death to Annette until Sunday. Blaine Overson said he was out of cellphone range when Jerry died; after Jerry's death, Overson went to a family event that also was out of cellphone range.
"I didn't realize, because I'd been out of phone contact, that [media coverage] had blown up," Blaine Overson said.
Jerry collapsed Aug. 17 near South Temple and State Street. He was finishing a tour when he suddenly kicked his stomach. When the driver stopped to check on him, he lay down and refused to get up. He was taken away by heavy machinery.
By Wednesday, Jerry was looking better, Blaine Overson said. But he took a turn for the worse Friday morning and died Friday night, Overson said.
Animal-rights advocates claimed Jerry's condition was exacerbated because he was required to work in 100-degree temperatures.
City officials say they have received a number of complaints asking the city to discontinue business licenses for carriages. A petition at change.org by Amy Meyer, who filmed the video Jerry's collapse, petitions/salt-lake-city-council-and-mayor-ban-horse-carriages-on-salt-lake-city-streets-2">has more than 3,400 signatures calling for an end to carriage rides. petitionsite.com/932/314/037/help-eliminate-horse-drawn-carriages-in-salt-lake-city/">Another online petition started by Donna Pemmitt, who does not live in Utah, had been signed by more than 5,700 people from around the world, seeking to put an end to the "cruel industry."
After Jerry's collapse, the Humane Society of Utah renewed its protests against carriage rides. In a statement, the Humane Society claimed that horses working in the city could overheat on hot asphalt, endure loud noises, breathe exhaust fumes and, in winter, are forced to labor in frigid weather for several hours a day. The practice puts both horses and people at risk, according to the release.
PETA has compiled a list of almost 200 carriage-horse accidents in the United States, from 1985 to February of this year. Salt Lake City appears on the list three times.
But Blaine Overson said Jerry's death had nothing to do with his work pulling carriages.
"Colic is the No. 1 cause of death for horses," Overson said. "It doesn't mean that it's overworked or overheated or anything else."
South Mountain Equine veterinarian Lyle Barbour, who was not treating Jerry, said colic usually strikes suddenly in horses and most of the time nothing can be done to prevent it. Depending on the type of colic, it could be a week before the horse dies, he said.
"I'm not going to convince PETA that we treat Jerry like one of our children," Blaine Overson said. "There's no way I could get them to understand that. But we do. We really do.
"If they knew how much it hurt, they would know that we just don't abuse our horses."
Overson said the business had already been struggling.
"We were going to retire," Overson said. "But I don't want PETA to think they can run me out of business. It's a sad day when the carriages are not in Salt Lake. They bring a lot of flavor to the city."
Tribune reporter Michael McFall contributed to this report.