Cause of death for NYC carriage horse inconclusive according to Cornell veterinarians


Cornell's veterinary college reports the cause of death was inconclusive for a New York City carriage horse whose collapse stirred debate about the welfare of these horses in New York City.

New York City

— Cornell University's veterinary college reports the cause of death was inconclusive for a New York City carriage horse whose demise stirred debate about the welfare of these horses.

The collapse and death of the horse, Charlie, on Oct. 23 ignited a debate about the future of the carriage horse industry in the city. And the event and subsequent retraction of a public statement by an ASPCA veterinarian resulted in her suspension.

Dr. Pamela Corey remains on unpaid suspension from her position as director of equine veterinary services for ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement Department, following a conflict between her and ASPCA leadership over an amended statement she made to the New York City Department of Health and Hygiene about Charlie’s death.

The original ASPCA statement indicated that Charlie had been forced to work with painful maladies, but Corey later clarified that the horse’s owners likely were unaware of any health-related problems for the 15-year-old draft horse.

ASPCA now reports that the complete gross necropsy conducted by pathologists at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine did not indicate a direct cause of death for the horse.

In addition to the gross necropsy, pathologists at Cornell also completed a histopathology; stains of the liver, heart and brain, and a parasitology analysis.

The final pathology report found significant breakdown of the horse’s tissue after death, which may have obscured subtle abnormalities, says ASPCA. Visual examination of the stomach indicated gastritis, and there was inflammation in the small intestine and a nodule in the large intestine indicating parasites.

However, the findings were not severe and, given the good nutritional condition of the horse, the necropsy indicates the inflammation was not causing significant health problems for the horse. The report also indicated scarring on the liver, but the causes are unknown. There were no abnormalities in the heart or evidence of any abnormalities that would account for the collapse.

“There was no evidence of a sudden onset of any abnormalities to account for the collapse. It is possible that the horse has some degree of a heart condition; however this cannot be conclusively demonstrated,” states ASPCA in its summary of the necropsy report. “”We cannot rule out toxin exposure, abnormal heartbeat or allergic reaction.”

ASPCA says the case has now been closed.

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