The Dominican Republic “Work Horses Case”
Animals have been used for food, hard work and abused for centuries by human kind.
Regarding this specific case in the Dominican Republic it seems that man has not been very grateful for the helpful contribution of the horse in today’s modern civilization. Even though man has built machines to achieve almost any hard working tasks, the Dominican Republic still has a small, but belligerent slavery industry, which in terms of functioning does not differ much from any other crime organization.
Cart horses are still been used in some cities in the Dominican Republic to transport all source of things including construction materials. This is currently going on in the city of Santo Domingo, the horses work; heavily overloaded, from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM, more than twelve hours, most of the time without rest, food and water. They do not constantly walk; some vendors will stand on a spot for long hours under the burning sun in the streets of Santo Domingo.
Often, these animals faint on the scorching hot streets of the city, under the watchful eyes of powerless habitants, thus causing traffic jams, accidents and risk of illness spreading. Their drivers beat them with stick, a peace of iron, throw stones at them and even stab them with knife, forcing them to get up and continue working. Even though, these animals provide transport for their living need, financially speaking. The horses do not need money; grass and water are their basic needs. They work to support the driver’s family; yet they are constantly abused and neglected.
In the year 2004, SODOPRECA, started an investigation about this small criminal industry and the findings were heart breaking. Six hundred work horses were used as slaves by this unnecessary industry. We wanted to educate the owners on how to treat their animals in an appropriate way. We later found out that the so called “owner of the horses” did not want to have anything to do with any authority since they were involved in other criminal activities and were afraid of having anything to do with the law. Yet we proceeded to bathe the horses and treat them for common infections and vaccinated them.
Later on, we pressed for a legislation for the banning of work horses on the streets of Santo Domingo and finally, we have achieved our objective with the Resolution No. 137-05 in the year 2005.
As our investigation progressed, SODOPRECA’s Animal Control Unit (UCA) did the following findings:
- 800 work horses are working within the National District of Santo Domingo.
- 95% of these horses have been stolen
- This is an organized illegal activity with less than five individuals “owning most of the horses.
- 40% of the horse’s drivers are children and some illegal immigrants.
- The horse’s drivers do not own the horses; they actually rent the horses from the Lord of the horses, “horse’s owner”.
- The rental price is RD$ 500.00 daily. (around US 13.00).
- ‘Horse’s owner” does not provide medical treatment for the animals.
- The small industry does not pay any taxes to the government.
- Owners that have 20 horses make RD$ 10,000.00 pesos daily, a great amount for most Dominicans.
- They do not have suitable land, shelter or feed for the animals, instead the animals are left to roam around the local market eating whatever they can find, including from garbage can.
I remember, during an operation directed by me in the beginning of 2010, I was on the back of a truck with three work horses we had just confiscated, when I noted one of the animals munching on a piece of cardboard on the truck floor. I have never forgotten that sad scene, and I cannot understand how a human can be the cause or allow something like this happen.
I travelled on the rental truck along with these horses we had just rescued in order to provide protection and prevent the animals from falling off the vehicle. I wanted to make sure they arrived safely at the sanctuary. The rental vehicles provided for our services are not appropriate for the transportation of live stock; yet it is the only way we can go about getting things done in the Dominican Republic. The other option was unacceptable to me, allow the horses to keep suffering the continued abuse of their “owner” and drivers.
- On conclusion: The transit of animal traction vehicle is presently prohibited within the National District of Santo Domingo.
- To steal a horse is a violation of Dominican laws.
- Child exploitation is violation of Dominicans and International legislation.
- Animal traction vehicle cause numerous inconveniences, including accidents, where animals and people have died, they result in the spreading of infectious diseases, contamination of the environment and negatively affect the image of the Dominican tourism industry.
More over, one in a developed country will assume that, and think this illegal business has been prohibited yet these horses are still abused and continue working in these conditions on the streets today! The law will not enforce this matter if we, a rescue organization empowered by the law to do it, don’t do it; because the police and other government agencies do not have the interest, resources or training to do it. The horses only hope, is for us to rescue them and our only hope to do it is by getting the financial support to complete this task.
We feel grateful for the organizations that trained us to be able to have gotten so far; but the horses will be lot more grateful if we can get the support to pass to the next level, which means objective upholding the law and freeing the Dominican work horses from slavery.
Marcos A. Polanco