PETA activists question Utah carriage horse photo, recovery story
Unknown fate • Animal control hasn't seen Jerry since his collapse; owners acting "very secretive."
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A week after Jerry the carriage horse collapsed in downtown Salt Lake City, no one but his owners seems to have seen him and animal activists say a photo showing his recovery depicts a different animal.

Jerry collapsed Aug. 17 in a highly publicized incident captured in photos by bystanders and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal activists. Jerry's owners eventually managed to get him off the street and to a nearby stable, and by Wednesday said he was recovering from colic. Annette Overson, co-owner of Carriage for Hire, also provided The Salt Lake Tribune with a photo she said was of Jerry standing up in a stable.

But Friday, PETA research project manager Jeremy Beckham said Overson's picture shows a different horse from one he saw and photographed lying on the pavement downtown. Beckham described Jerry as a dappled gray — a description also mentioned in a Salt Lake County Animal Services report — but said the horse in Overson's picture had a different coloring pattern called "flea bitten" gray.

After Beckham saw the two images, he contacted Jennifer Hack of the United States Equine Rescue League. Hack — whom Beckham described as a horse expert — pointed out that the horse in Overson's image has a white mark, called a snip, above its lip. The horse in Beckham's images does not.

"These markings do not change over time as they come from the color of the skin," Hack wrote in a letter to Beckham, "so a horse that is born with a snip cannot suddenly not have one, and vice versa."

Hack could not be reached for comment Friday.

Overson also did not return calls Friday.

Beckham said the conflicting photos raise questions about what exactly is going on with Jerry.

"The biggest question in my mind is, 'Where is Jerry?' " he said.

When Tribune staffers on Friday visited the stables where Jerry was taken after his collapse, an employee met them outside the front door and said Jerry was recovering. However, she declined to comment further on his status or on the conflicting photos. She said company employees have received threats.

Animal Services officers also haven't seen Jerry since his initial fall.

Don Porter, acting division director for Salt Lake County Animal Services, said Friday that two of his officers responded to the initial Saturday incident. Two days later, one of those officers and another employee visited the stables to check for health and safety violations. They found none, and were told by Jerry's owner and veterinarian the horse had been moved to another location.

"The horse itself was not available," Porter said. "They were being very secretive."

Porter said the secrecy apparently stemmed from safety concerns for the horse.

"It's not our responsibility to check on the health of the animal if the veterinarian's taking care of it," he said.

The veterinarian who treated Jerry last Saturday also did not return calls Friday.

Porter added that his department is satisfied that Jerry is recovering and has no evidence that any deception or misunderstandings have occurred. He also said the county does not anticipate having any future involvement in the issue.

On Saturday, questions surrounding Jerry's status prompted PETA to offer a $1,000 reward for information about his whereabouts. In a statement, Beckham said PETA questions the diagnosis identifying colic as Jerry's ailment, as well as reports that he is recovering. The statement adds that PETA hopes Animal Services officials will inspect the stable where Jerry is being kept and subpoena veterinary records.

jdalrymple@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jimmycdii