Horses removed after reports of neglect

February 6, 2009 (CHICAGO) One by one, police and Animal Care removed the horses cared for by JC Cutters Limited Horse-drawn Carriage Company, located in the 1500 block of Magnolia on the North Side. Animal Care had received reports that these horses had been kept in terrible conditions.

A woman named Melissa Woicek owns one of the horses.

"The horses weren't working. They were in a barn. Half were blanketed and it's actually warm in there," said Woicek.

Woicek admitted the horses have been kept in 29 degree temperatures and denies they are mistreated.

Animal care and police arrived at 11 a.m. Friday, and it took them several hours to evaluate the situation. At 1 p.m., they decided to remove the horses from the premises.

"Based on what we saw, we impounded the animals. They are under the protection of the animal care and control and I can't go into a lot of the details because it's an ongoing investigation," said Mark Rosenthal, Animal Care.

The carriage business is a popular one, especially for tourists visiting Chicago, as well as couples and families.

Former Mayor Jane Byrne brought the carriage trade to the city because she thought it would be a nifty addition to Chicago Fest and Navy Pier. Over the years, many have expressed concern about the care and treatment of the carriage horses.

Chicago residents Gina and Ron Morgan, who represent a farm in Indiana, said they would take the horses. They also believe the carriage business should be closed down.

"Horses are out 12, 13 hours a day working, in hot weather, in fridged, cold weather all for entertainment purposes," said Gina Morgan.

Dan Surge works for another carriage company and also offered to house the horses.

"I know a lot of the people that drive here and I don't see them doing this onpurpose. I don't know what happened. Most of the drivers do love horses and they're there because they love horses," said Surge.

A company representative from JC Cutters says they have been falsely accused and that the animals have been fed, watered and maintained.

The carriage company was denied an application for renewal for 2009 based on a number of violations including unsafe conditions for the animals. They appealed the city's decision and were denied.

The horses were taken to an undisclosed destination and Animal Care says they will remain there and their fate will be decided in court.

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