NEW YORK - A carriage driver has been accused of altering a hoof brand to make a 22-year-old draft horse with a breathing ailment appear to be a healthier horse nearly half its age.
Frank Luo branded the wrong hoof identification number on an aging horse named Ceasar, who was supposed to be resting on a Pennsylvania farm, so he could work under a license issued to a 12-year-old horse named Carsen, city health officials said in an administrative order last month.
The details of the case, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, come as Mayor Bill de Blasio and animal-rights activists are pushing to ban the city's carriage industry as inhumane to the horses.
In the written order, officials said a city vet noticed in late January that the horse had Carsen's ID number on its hoof, but its "physical characteristics and medical condition was that of the older horse." Ceasar had a mild, chronic condition called "heaves," which is similar to asthma, city officials said.
Luo said Friday that the vet simply got it wrong.
"I did not switch the horses. It's just very confusing because they look alike," he said.
Initially, Luo submitted paperwork intended to prove that the horse really was Carsen, including a handwritten note from a Pennsylvania farmer who said Ceasar had been on his farm for months. The city asked for more proof, including a veterinarian's evaluation.
Five days later, Luo's lawyer informed the department that he couldn't afford to have the horse sitting idle and had shipped him to Pennsylvania and sold him.
"It's all settled now," Luo said. He said he would continue to run his business with other horses.
The Department of Consumer Affairs, which regulates the drivers, is still investigating.