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Charleston horse carriage company sues Animal Society, activist for defamation, damages

Charleston Carriage Works (WCIV)

A Charleston horse carriage tour company has sued an animal welfare charity and a local animal rights activist for defamation and conspiracy.

Charleston Carriage Works in a lawsuit filed Tuesday, May 29, alleges the Charleston Animal Society (CAS) and Ellen Harley of Charleston Carriage Horse Advocates conspired to defame the company by spreading false information about it.

“We reached out to Ellen Harley and others over a year ago and received no response, leaving us no alternative," Charleston Carriage Works owner Broderick Christoff said of the decision to file the lawsuit.

CAS denies it was unresponsive. Dan Krosse, CAS Media and Marketing Consultant, said a meeting was in the works last year, but cancelled when the carriage companies backed out. He said they've made every effort to open a dialogue.

CCW is asking for a jury trial, and seeking monetary compensation for damages and attorney fees.

Charleston Carriage Works (CCW) also alleges Harley and CAS inflicted intentional mental distress on its employees and intentionally interfered with its business.

Because CAS receives taxpayer money to conduct its animal welfare work in Charleston County, CCW also claims it has been deprived of its civil due process right to conduct business without governmental interference.

Joe Elmore, CEO of the Charleston Animal Society, says CAS had not been served with a copy of any lawsuit as of Thursday afternoon.

“From our limited understanding of the allegations, this is yet another ploy to distract the public from the real issue, which is improving the working conditions of these animals so that they are not the harshest in the country,” Elmore said. “These continuing tactics will not discourage us from advocating for more humane working conditions for the animals.”

The carriage company claims Harley and CAS have harassed its customers, its staff and its horses on the streets of Charleston, and have maliciously spread lies about the company and its treatment of animals across various media, the result being damage to its business, income and reputation.

CCW says people acting on behalf of CAS and Harley would approach carriages, shouting false information. The company says lies these people would shout included that CCW:

  • Failed to obey city ordinances
  • Was intentionally cruel and inhumane to its horses
  • Disregarded animal safety, health and welfare
  • Worked its animals to death, and
  • Was unfit to operate carriage tours

The lawsuit also claims the two parties encouraged strangers to disrupt CCW’s tours. Additionally, CCW says Harley herself frequently follows its carriages trying to provoke the horses and cause disruption and intimidation.

The lawsuit goes on to say CAS and Harley published false information about horses photographed and videoed lying on their sides after tripping and falling while working.

CCW says the two parties wrongly claimed the horses died after collapsing from overwork and heat exhaustion, when CCW says the horses in fact tripped and fell, and continued lying down on their side as they are trained to do for their safety.

The lawsuit claims the CCW’s owner and employees also received death threats and threats of arson, and were publicly embarrassed and humiliated.

All this, the lawsuit alleges, has led CCW to suffer diminishment of earnings, mental anguish and wounded feelings, fear of death or bodily injury, animosity, hostility, injury to reputation and standing in the community, and loss of good will, making it difficult for CCW to conduct business and retain employees.

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