Jerry the Carriage Horse’s Death Remains a Mystery After Owners Try to Hide it

Jerry, the carriage horse from Salt Lake City, has died. Exactly when and exactly how are a mystery. Those should be easily determined details, but this story has taken an odd turn.

Care2 readers may remember our recent story about Jerry, a 13-year-old horse, who’d been pulling carriages on August 17th in near-100 degree heat. Some time during the afternoon, he kicked his stomach and then suddenly went down right on the street and wouldn’t get up again.

He reportedly lay there on the hot pavement for hours before he could be forklifted to a trailer and taken back to his owners at Carriage for Hire.

What happened next, however, takes this story from sad to strange.

Pressed by activists and the media to know Jerry’s condition after he was taken away, owner Annette Overton released a photo of a healthy-looking horse standing inside a stall. All was well, Carriage for Hire reported.

However, that photo was not Jerry. A close look at the picture, compared with photos of Jerry taken at the scene on the 17th, shows this fact clearly. Jerry’s coat was a shade of grey known as “dappled” – a grey or white shade with mottled brown or black hair. The horse in the photo had a slightly different coat known as “flea bitten” grey and a white mark on its lip that Jerry didn’t have.

Activists, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), began to ask publicly what was going on. Annette Overton eventually came clean and admitted that she intentionally sent out the wrong photo.

Overton told the Salt Lake Tribune she released a photo of a different horse because she was “sick of seeing my horses laying down and so I sent a picture of a horse standing up.” She admitted it was a “stupid mistake” and added, “I should never have sent that photo.”

Epic fail?  Oh, yes.

Her husband, Blaine Overton, told that his wife intentionally released the wrong photo because she was being “terrorized by these animal activists,” some of whom were threatening them with violence. They’d taken Jerry 300 miles away, he said, to distance him from the frenzy and let him recover.  He also said his wife had misunderstood what he’d told her about Jerry’s condition, causing her to report that Jerry was on the mend.

In fact, it appears Jerry may have died the weekend of the incident. Whenever it occurred, it wasn’t revealed publicly until the following week. The news came out when, in response to the outcry about the photo, City Councilman Charlie Luke visited Carriage for Hire to see the horse and was told he had died.

Officials looking into the incident found no violations of the city carriage horse ordinance.

What Really Happened to Jerry?

Seeing a horse go down on a public street is obviously heart wrenching. What is unclear is whether Jerry “collapsed” due to ill-care or heat exhaustion, or whether he lay down on purpose.

Why would he lie down in the street on purpose? Well, Carriage for Hire says Jerry had colic. Colic is a painful condition of the abdomen, causing tightness within the digestive system. The pain is often caused by a twisted intestine or by contractions as the digestive tract tries to force out an obstruction.

Colic is the most common cause of premature death in horses. Symptoms often develop without warning. When the pain hits, horses may kick at their stomach (as Jerry reportedly did). Horses sometimes feel a strong need to lie down to alleviate the discomfort. They do this because, unlike most other animals, horses cannot vomit. It’s therefore possible that Jerry was intentionally lying down to minimize pain. If so, he really didn’t “collapse” as has been reported.

Activist Amy Meyer of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, who was on scene when Jerry was on the ground, said she didn’t think Jerry appeared to be suffering from colic. Representatives from PETA agree. PETA research project manager Jeremy Beckham, also present, told the Salt Lake Tribune, “After reviewing the video footage of the incident and consulting with equine experts and veterinarians, we question the diagnosis of colic and subsequent reports from Carriage for Hire.”

Unfortunately, without seeing the veterinarian’s report, we will never know for sure. Jerry’s carcass has been destroyed, and Salt Lake City’s Animal Control officers never saw him after he was taken from the scene.

The Overtons say it was colic. Maybe it was. Unfortunately for them, they created a credibility problem when they attempted to placate the public by intentionally releasing a photo of a different horse and failing to promptly reveal Jerry had died. Even the mayor’s office decried the delay in reporting Jerry’s death.

Jerrys Legacy: Salt Lake City Re-Evaluates Carriage Horse Ordinance

The bigger issue currently under consideration is whether the carriage horse industry will be allowed to continue operation in Salt Lake City.

Astoundingly, in Salt Lake City, carriage horses are permitted to work unless the heat index reaches 150 degrees. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, that equates to hitting Salt Lake City’s record high of 107 degrees, plus 57 percent humidity. In reality, it just never gets “too hot” for the horses to work, even when it’s sweltering out there.

By way of comparison, in Philadelphia, when the temperature hits 91 degrees, carriage horses can’t work. In Charleston, South Carolina, carriage horses must be off the street at 98 degrees.

Salt Lake City Councilman Charlie Luke has called for an investigation into the incident and the re-evaluation of the city’s carriage horse ordinance. If you want to add your voice to those who oppose carriage horses in Salt Lake City, sign this petition to the Salt Lake City Council.

Related Stories:

Carriage Horse With Colic Survives Collapse, May Have to Work Again

Carriage Horse Drops Dead in NYC

Horse-Drawn Carriage Cruelty a Big Issue in NYC Mayoral Race

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven11 months ago

thanks for the article.

Sheri D.
Sheri D.2 years ago

heartbreaking! Poor Jerry.

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

Lynne, we will have to agree to disagree on this since the regulations regarding how long the horses can work and under what conditions are usually strict enough that I wish they applied to people and certainly to me when I was working! I'd love to have only worked a couple of hours a day, put out a very minimum amount of effort and been given a rest break every 30 minutes or so, and then have the rest of the day to spend eating, drinking and sleeping, not to mention 6 months a year off on vacation. Exploitation? Aren't we all exploited by our employers for profit?

I apologize if I don't remember a reference to "good cop/bad cop" but I truly don't. I've made several comments/posts in this discussion since it's very much of interest to me because of two things............I have horses myself and I am annoyed when I read knee-jerk reactions based on misinformation about a subject that I feel I'm much more informed about. I may have said something about "good cop/bad cop", but I don't see it right here.

Lynne Thrower
Lynne Thrower3 years ago

Diane L The industry needs banning because it is cruel for the horses to be on the roads in the first place. Stop and ask yoursefl what kind of life it is for them. Working all those hours for someone to make money off of them, that's exploiting them isn't it? They simply don't belong on the roads nose to hose, so I think that your comparison to good cop, bad cop isn't relevant, it wants banning for ethical reasons. Magnificent animals treated as merely money making machines whilst putting them in danger isn't a cool thing to do!

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

John M, said, "In the NOT TO DISTANT FUTURE,if we do not find better methods for transportation other than the internal combustion engine, we may be reverting back to the horse for transportation,other than walking or biking..".............before I retired in 2004, I considered doing just that...........riding my horse to work, but they said they couldn't figure out how to compute the toll for an equine crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge! I gave up the idea anyway, as it was 1-1/2 hours to commute via my car doing 60 mph, so working 12 hour days would have required a 20 or more hours if I had done the commute via horseback.. Not quite "feasible". .

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

Still scrolling back and read many comments from those who want to place blame on anyone who is "stupid enough" (their words, not mine) to pay to be hauled around in a 4-wheeled buggy drawn by horses, stating it's NOT "romantic", blah, blah. Okay, your opinion so don't ride in one...........take a Yellow Cab.

Now Dawnie, the true romantic that she is, says, " It's not 1813 or1913, when horses where our transport and tractors, but back then in days of yore, people started work early in an unpolluted land and in the heat of the day farmer and horses had a kip under a shady tree and then got back to work until night fall. People knew if they over worked their horses they were up a well known creek without a paddle and most likely couldn't come by the money to purchase new horses and so had to rest them when it was too hot' Unfortunately, not factual at all. Back then, horses were worked until they dropped and when that happened, the owners simply got another one to take it's place. That's why the cowboys called them, their "string". Horses were a "dime a dozen" so to speak. Lose one? Go get another. Simple. Back then, hay didn't cost $350/ton and grain wasn't $20/bag. Farriers? They did it themselves. Think again, Dawnie. Jerry's demise stinks to high heaven and the owners did something unethical, even if his death was accidental.

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

Misha, I understand your anger, but while I also question much of how this went down ............specifically the owners hiding the body and lying about Jerry's condition/fate, that is no reason to ban an entire industry. There are bad cops everywhere, but would you suggest not having cops at all? We all know of Pit attacks, yet most people are against BSL. I also see no relevance to SLC and Mormons.

Sorry, Beverly, but you don't "buy" the story of colic? If you have no horses or no experience with them, then you shouldn't judge or even comment about the possibility. Yes, it was the MOST likely cause of death but sad that they handled it so poorly and a vet wasn't there at the barn when they got Jerry back. Maybe he could have been saved, maybe not. This now will never be known for sure.

Lynne Thrower
Lynne Thrower3 years ago

I don't like to hear horses called 'carriage' horses, just because humans have made them pull carriages doesnt make them 'carriage' horses, they are simply horses, there is no such thing as a lab animal either or all the other terms that have been given to animals to make it seem 'normal' and acceptable when it absolutely isn't. Stud dogs, breeders, hunting dogs, racing greyhounds, circus animals and on and on. We must resist all these terms until it is recognised that it is all exploitation.

Carrie-Anne Brown

very sad news but thanks for sharing and already signed :)

Lyn Smith
Lyn Romaine3 years ago

Carriage horses need to be banned. Greed, and no compassion, care or concern is what let this horse lay in the street.