Thursday, November 02, 2006

After Retirement, What Happens To New York City Police Department Horses? Strange and Concerning Conclusion

This is just strange. They actually end up being “cared” for by a biomedical or biotech company Breonics Inc. The story isn’t clear what they actually do with them, but I can only imagine what that would be. Hopefully there will be changes in where they are cared for.

Article:

NYPD police horses at center of dispute

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061101/ap_on_re_us/
old_police_horses_2

By MICHAEL HILL, Associated Press Writer Wed Nov 1, 6:30 AM ET

OTISVILLE, N.Y. - For years, New York City Police Department horses done pounding the pavement have ambled away their retirement years on gentle grass here.


No shoes. No saddles. The only honking heard on a private ranch here two hours north of Manhattan comes from geese.

It would be idyllic except for the legal fight between New York City and the ranch's owners: The city has accused the biotech company that owns the ranch of improperly caring for the Mounted Unit horses.

Lawyers for Breonics Inc. deny the charge, claiming it's the city that has shirked its responsibility. They have won a key ruling in state court.

But as legal proceedings continue, one result is already clear: The city has begun looking to put police department horses out to other pastures.

"For their age, they're in pretty good shape," Breonics president Ernest Green said recently as he walked among 30 horses grazing one sunny morning. "We actually spent a lot of our own money keeping these animals fed and keeping them as best we could."

Horses have been coming to the ranch here because of a historical quirk.

New York City opened a tuberculosis sanatorium a century ago and kept horses on site for their blood, which could be used for vaccinations. The sanatorium is long gone, but the unit has been retiring police horses here since the early '80s, according to city officials.

In 1983, the city sold the land, but included a covenant in the lease that required the buyer, Otisville Biotech Inc., to care for the old horses for as long as the city maintained mounted patrols, plus 10 years.

In return, the company could draw horses' blood for biological products. The covenant carried over when Breonics bought the land in 2001, though Green said they never drew horses' blood.

Troubles began last year.

City officials say they were tipped off by neighbors that horses on the ranch were so skinny their ribs showed. After an inspection, the city sued Breonics alleging breach of contract.

The city also began paying up more than $140,000 for horse care.

"We have separate contracts to make sure that they are adequately fed with hay and grain and we have a separate veterinarian assigned to them under a separate contract, as well as our own people going up once a week," said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

Green is emphatic that the horses were always well cared for, even as his company faced financial difficulties. He welcomed visitors on a recent morning to demonstrate that the ranch, though shopworn, had clean stalls, green grass and fresh hay.

Duffy, Doc Fried, Major and the 27 other old horses were not skinny enough to show any ribs, though Green said laminitis is common among the horses because they clomped along city streets for so many years.

Green said New York City complained only after he approached them to help create a not-for-profit organization to care for the horses to relieve the financial burden on his company. He said his dealings with the city before last year were mostly limited to drivers dropping off more horses.

Green's lawyer, Joseph Ranni, compares the city to a "deadbeat parent," still paying less than it should to care for the horses. City officials say the horses' well-being is their paramount concern.

A judge this summer sided with Breonics on the issue of horse care responsibility, ruling that the "obligation has run for more than 21 years and has now created an onerous financial burden" on the company.

But acting state Supreme Court Justice Elaine Slobod also said Breonics had a "continued implied obligation" to the city and left it to the two parties to settle the issue, whether it be through conveying the land to the city or some other means.

A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 9.

Not only has the city appealed the ruling, but Browne said the city has been looking at sending retired horses to up to three other ranches, two in upstate New York and another in New Hampshire.

He wasn't sure when the horses could be transferred from Otisville. He said other horses have already been adopted by individuals.

"We still want to have our own facility," Browne said. "We don't want to rely exclusively on goodwill."

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