CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The ongoing battle between those who speak out for animal rights and the Charleston carriage horse companies has taken another step in the form of a lawsuit.
Charleston Carriage Horse Company (Charleston Carriage Works) has sued the Charleston Animal Society and horse advocates. The company claims the animal society and advocates spread false information on social media saying the carriage company failed to adhere to city ordinances, were intentionally cruel to horses and disregarded animal safety.
The carriage company cites a specific instance in the lawsuit when it says a horse tripped and was lying on its side, but the animal society and horse advocates presented a photo of the horse on its side on social media as if the horse had collapsed from heat exhaustion. The carriage company claims the horse is trained to lay on its side if it trips.
The carriage horse company also says the social media post has damaged business operations.
The suit also claims the horse advocates and the animal society have violated the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a law which is meant to curb the actions of activists toward "animal enterprises" like the carriage company. The carriage company states the violations stem from the advocates using social media to create an "environment of hostility" to intimidate employees of the carriage company.
The carriage company is seeking actual and punitive damages as well as a jury trial.
"We have not been served with a copy of any lawsuit, but from our limited understanding of the allegations, this is yet another ploy to distract the public from the real issue, which is improving the working conditions of these animals so that they are not the harshest in the country," Charleston Animal Society spokeswoman Kay Hyman said. "Once we receive the lawsuit, we will, of course, respond in a factual and expedient manner, as we always have, but these continuing tactics will not discourage us from advocating for more humane working conditions for the animals. We hope the media will focus on our current animal crisis, nearly 900 animals in our care, most of whom need homes now. We are offering free adoptions of all adult dogs and cats NOW, sponsored by the ESPN Podcast 'Free Cookies.'"