More than a year after a New York City carriage horse named Ryder collapsed in Midtown, his driver Ian McKeever was arrested on animal abuse charges, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said.
McKeever was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Wednesday and charged in a misdemeanor complaint with one count of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals, and failure to provide proper sustenance, according to the DA’s office. He pleaded not guilty, according to court records.
McKeever’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The complaint details Ryder’s last day as a carriage horse on Aug. 10, 2022, when he started work with McKeever at 9:30 a.m. Throughout the day, he was seen looking “very frail and thin,” and walking slowly while panting with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, according to the complaint.
“As alleged, Ryder should not have been working on this hot summer day,” Bragg said in a statement.
At around 5:10 p.m., Ryder collapsed in the middle of West 45th Street near Ninth Avenue, authorities said. According to the complaint, McKeever repeatedly tried forcing the horse to stand up by pulling on his reins, yelling and using his whip.
He also didn’t provide the horse any water, and left him with his harness on until a member of the NYPD eventually took it off, the complaint details. The police officer was also the one who put ice and cold water on Ryder until he was able to get back up, according to the complaint.
After the horse’s collapse, Pete Donohue, a spokesperson for Transport Workers Union Local 100 – the group that represents horse carriage drivers – told Gothamist the horse was suffering from equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, a neurological disease horses can contract from eating infected opossum droppings, and not heat exhaustion.
After the incident, Ryder was retired to a farm outside of the city. The city’s health department then accused the horse carriage’s owners of falsifying his age in veterinary records, from 26 to 13 years old. According to the criminal complaint, on top of old age, he suffered from a variety of significant health issues.
“Despite his condition, he was out for hours and worked to the point of collapse,” Bragg said in a statement. “All animals deserve to be treated with the utmost care and the type of abuse that Ryder allegedly suffered is unacceptable.”
Ryder was euthanized due to his poor medical condition in October of last year.
Ryder’s collapse made headlines and renewed calls from animal rights advocates to ban horse carriages in the city. On Wednesday, Edita Birnkrant, executive director of New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets – or NYCLASS – said she was grateful to see animal rights taken seriously, but one arrest, she added, doesn’t undo what she describes as an industrywide problem with abuse.
“Animal cruelty is not taken seriously. It is not a top priority, so it’s rare that these kind of charges are filed in any abuse case,” Birnkrant said. “We want there to be some kind of accountability and justice, but it’s not enough because this doesn’t begin and end with Ryder. There are so many horses out there right now suffering.”