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Paraguay Bans Work Horses in City Streets After Outcry From Animal Rights Groups
 By Winniefield Park   •   4th Feb 2014   •   5,096 views   •   0 comments
Paraguay Bans Work Horses in City Streets After Outcry From Animal Rights Groups

The minimum wage where I live has sat at $10.25 an hour for many years and recently, it's been raised to $11. For anyone who must try to live on a minimum wage, life can be a struggle. But imagine trying to live on $10 a day. In Ausoncion, Paraguay that's the daily earnings of someone who collects recyclable garbage, hauling it by horse-drawn wagon. And if life is hard for the Carretoneros who drive the wagons, the horses suffer too. For long hours, often over fourteen hours a day, these horses plod through the city streets, pulling heavy wagon loads of recyclable scrap such as plastic and cardboard.

The plight of these horses has not escaped notice of animal-rights activists and city officials. The horses are over-worked, malnutritioned and sometimes ill-treated. Summertime heat can reach 95F(35C) and there are no laws to prevent the use of horses during bad weather. They often work without rest, are lame, parasite infested, foot sore and covered in sores from poorly fitted harness. Like the New York City carriage horses, the horses must navigate the bumper-to-bumper chaotic city traffic, over poor, often unpaved roads. Some Carretoneros do what they can to care for their horses with their limited resources. Others do not.

Related: Is it Time To End Horse Drawn Carriages in New York City
Related: Should Police Horses Be Banned

Following the lead of several other South American cities, including most recently, Bogata and Columbia, Ausoncion will be initiating a program to get these horses off of the streets. It's estimated that eight hundred registered Carretoneros wander the streets sorting through trash for recyclable scrap, with many more not wishing to be registered. The tradition of the Carretoneros goes back to the beginnings of the city, but as of mid-February 2014, the practice will be banned.

Through the efforts of city officials and animal activists, the lives of many scrap collectors and their horses is about to change, hopefully for the better. A Belgian born business woman is offering sanctuary to Ausoncion's working horses at one of her ranches in Paraguay. She will be offering the Carretoneros $350 per horse to be used as a down payment on a motorized cart. In addition, the company that manufactures the motorized carts is offering credit without collateral so that the impoverished scrap collectors can gradually pay off the cost of their new carts.

The ban against horse-drawn carts comes into effect mid-month, but it's estimated it will take many more months for all Carretoneros to comply. Of course, there are arguments against ending the traditional Carretoneros way of life, similar to those heard in many other arguments to keep horse-drawn vehicles on city streets: tradition, ambience, and tourist appeal. But, the Carretoneros themselves seem to view the change as positive. The new motorized carts can carry a larger load, travel further and faster, and that can translate to more money for the operator.

And the horses' welfare will improve too. On the ranch owned by Maris Llorens, they will live in relative freedom, far from the chaotic city streets and laborious toil of their former lives.
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