02/17/12 Horses Should Not Be Used to Settle Conflicts Between Humans!

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Animal Friends sends a letter to the Ministry of the Interior

- Animal Friends emphasizes the ethical and economic inadequacy of using horses in police work

Having obtained the information that the proposal of a new Law on Police, which should soon reach the Croatian MPs, foresees the return of official horses that "could be used as a means of coercion in order to establish public order in larger proportions," Animal Friends sent a letter to the head of the Ministry of the Interior, Ranko Ostojic. The letter, which was also sent to the Prime Minister, ministers of agriculture and finances, and the Croatian police union, emphasizes the utter ethical and economic inadequacy of using horses in police work, and demands the withdrawal of the proposal to the benefit of both animals and humans.

The letter indicates that the news of possible use of horses in police have met with public consternation, since people are revolted by the fact that in times of heavy economic crisis anyone should propose such a backward, inhumane, unnecessary, and inefficient solution, which would heavily affect the state budget. Croatia has no tradition of using horses in police work and the idea of settling conflicts by police force has anyway nothing to do with looking for a civilized solution of social problems.

Besides ethical reasons, Animal Friends considers this proposal unreasonable because of its huge and socially disruptive cost. The most basic equipment of a horse includes a saddle, a neoprene girth for securing the saddle, stirrup leathers, bag for the additional equipment, protection helmet, two pairs of splint boots, a combined bridle, light-reflecting attachments for the bridle, the saddle, and the legs, and a training ball; for the rider, the equipment includes trousers, gloves, riding boots for summer and winter, a helmet, protection for elbows and knees, and a raincoat, to which one should add the costs of a police uniform, horse purchase, food and accommodation, regular and extraordinary veterinary care, and shoeing costs (monthly), as well as basic and special training of both the rider and the horse for stressful situations. The total cost of training and equipping a horse and a policeman, incurred upon the taxpayers, would amount to more than half a million Croatian kuna for a single horse and its horseman, which would be indeed shameful and morally unacceptable in a country where most people hardly make ends meet.

Animal Friends considers the practice of using horses in the 21st century as a primitive remnant from the past, inadequate for any purpose considering all the other options that are at our disposal. Horses are highly sensitive and intelligent social animals that do not belong in the streets or in situations where they should solve conflicts among humans. In order to be used in police work, they are subjected to brutal training of physical and psychological "desensibilization" in order to be able to cope with situations of high risk - such as aggressive masses of people, noise, blows, pushing, and pyrotechnics (both signalling or sounding). But even after long-term training, there is no guarantee that a horse will not succumb to panic, which can easily lead to serious human injuries (while riding or after the fall), as well as injuries of the horse and damage of property. Exposed to stress that the horse feels as threatening, it will first try to escape, and if prevented (by the rider or by physical obstacles, mass of people, etc.), it will get into the state of panic, manifested in kicking around with (shoed) hoofs that can easily break human bones. Some of the most frequent injuries that a horse can incur on a human lying on the ground are broken bones and skull, being trodden to death, etc. Thereby casual passers-by and persons not participating in unrests can easily get hurt as well. Horses are also frequently injured in such situations - they can suffer head or body injuries (incisions, hematomas), broken legs, especially in case of falling, injuries inflicted by pyrotechnics, behavior disturbances, and so on. Riders can suffer from broken bones as a result of falling (whereby getting entangles in straps is particularly dangerous), injuries from the conflict itself, hematomas, wounds, or burns. Horse riding is a highly risky activity even in regular conditions and falling from the horse can result in the death of the rider.

In countries which still have police horses, this practice is based mostly on tradition, not on actual efficiency, and even there the public and animal welfare associations demand the abolition of such practices, regardless of the tradition.

Animal Friends rightfully emphasizes that the Croatian police has enough means to maintain order in the streets without horses, and that in the 21st century the use of horses is utterly superfluous in terms of both ethics and economy. We therefore demand that the proposal of using horses in police work should be dropped, with the explanation that it is contrary to the basic principles of animal protection and moreover inefficient. In a country with serious social problems and a large number of unemployed and poor citizens who cannot even afford to live a dignified life, such a move would be experienced as an unnecessary extravagance on the part of the government.

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