Animal rights activists have responded to the recent announcement of the return of the Atlantic City Steel Pier Diving Horse show, planned for the summer of 2012, with a petition asking pier owners to reconsider reviving what they say is a cruel practice.
The recent announcement of the 100 million dollar makeover at Atlantic City's famous Steel Pier that would include the return of the legendary diving horse act which attracted hundreds of thousands of curious onlookers visiting the Jersey Shore, has created an uproar among animal rights activists who call the practice inhumane.
The daily dives were a featured act on the Boardwalk from the early 1920s into the 1970s when it was stopped by animal rights groups. Spectators would line the benches surrounding a 12-foot deep tank that awaited the horse and rider after its leap from a platform 40-feet in the air.
The show was 'invented' by William 'Doc' Carver and was highly criticized for animal abuses that were alleged to include using prods, electrical jolts and trapped doors to get the horses to jump from the platform. Horses were said to be forced to dive from the platform as often as four times a day, seven days a week.
The mere mention of the return of the Steel Pier Diving Horse show is again stirring outrage from animal lovers who say the horses are terrified and have no choice except for diving from the top of the platform when they reach the end of the ramp.
Anthony Catanoso, president of Steel Pier Associates, disagrees and told CBS News, “I would never allow an act on the pier to be in any way inhumane or abusive to animals. The fact of the matter is, the horses are not forced to do it. They are never harmed. There is no documentation of an animal ever being harmed in the 50 years they did it on Steel Pier — or certainly when we did it in 1993.”
Catanoso is hoping to have the diving horse show open by Memorial Day weekend, but not everyone shares that wish.
An online petition asking "Catanoso and others in a position of influence to cancel plans to bring this event back after so many years was started" and has nearly 10,000 signatures in less then a day.
Commenters to the petition have called the 'diving horse' show barbaric, inhumane, cruel, outrageous, and unbelievable.
Supporters of the petition are organizing on Facebook and say there is a good reason the act was stopped over forty years ago and that it should never return.
The Humane Society of the United States released a statement that said, they "emphatically oppose equine diving acts, which subject the animals to inhumane and potentially abusive situations in the course of their training, transport and performance.The stress and trauma endured by these animals, in addition to the risk of injury to them, make these acts unacceptable.”
The Steel Pier has responded to the public outcry with a statement on their Facebook wall that said in part:
We understand and share the community’s concern regarding the inhumane treatment of animals. In the course of making the decision to include the diving horse, Steel Pier Associates conducted significant research into past practices. Through this research, we determined there was no animal cruelty or abuse that occurred in the past. The new act will be humane, provide the horses first class care, operate under modern safety standards to protect both the riders and the horses and will not subject the horses to cruelty. Though we are sensitive to the concerns of the public, we ask people to wait to see the entire plan before making an opinion about any of its components.
Animal rights activists ask if it will take the death of a horse or rider to bring a stop to this form of entertainment, and they are promising a fight if the show is resurrected.