Bronx, NY – A man smacked a police horse in the face in a Bronx park on Sunday and the agency to which the animal belongs did not attempt to charge him for the assault.
The incident occurred at about 6 p.m. on July 28 when Parks Enforcement Patrol mounted units arrived at Van Cortlandt Park to break up an unruly group of people, the New York Post reported.
A video of the incident began as a woman argued with a mounted police officer who was giving her orders to step back from his horse, 10-year old Teddy.
As she argued with the officer, the woman flicked her hand at the horse in a menacing manner, but did not appear to make contact with the gentle animal’s face.
The video showed the officer continued to use Teddy to guide the woman back into the group of people.
And then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a man in a green shirt and jeans ran up to the horse and slapped it right on the side of its face.
The video showed the horse reared back his head in fear, as his attacker marched off away from the animal.
Suddenly, the man was surrounded by other park personnel, some of whom appeared to be parks enforcement officers.
He was asked to step to the side and talk to officers and appeared to be complying as the video ended.
Parks Enforcement Patrol officers could have charged the man – later identified as 25-year-old Franluis Ruiz – with misdemeanor killing or injuring a police animal, the New York Post reported.
That charge carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a maximum of $1,000 in fines.
But instead they wrote Ruiz a ticket for smoking a hookah in the park – a $100 fine – and cited him with disorderly conduct, which carries a maximum charge of 15 days in jail or a $250 fine, the New York Post reported.
Parks Department Spokeswoman Crystal Howard said they couldn’t press the more serious charges because the police horse wasn’t injured in the attack.
“Teddy is a valued member of our Parks Enforcement Patrol team. As such, his safety is of concern and we are happy that he was not seriously injured during this unacceptable incident,” Howard told the New York Post.
But the head of the union that represents Park Enforcement Patrol officers said they didn’t go after Ruiz on the charges of injuring a police animal because they were warned the charges would just be dismissed.
“Our members are no longer making the arrests because now they have to worry about a liability issue of making a false arrest,” DC 37 Local 983 President Joe Puleo told the New York Post. “It’s about time that the Parks Department stop putting these horses in harm’s way.”
Animal rights activists were outraged that Ruiz would not be charged with more and face serious consequences.
Animal rights attorney Karen Copeland said the officers were acting “acting under the color of authority” when the horse was assaulted by Ruiz, the New York Post reported.
“That’s striking out at that authority,” Copeland explained. “I think it was also animal cruelty. It was unprovoked and there’s absolutely no defense to an act against an animal like that.”
She said that Ruiz’s actions could have had nasty consequences and pointed out that it was only Teddy’s training and discipline that prevented Ruiz, the horse, and its handler from being injured, the New York Post reported.