Laws to protect horses in Newfoundland needed


January 5, 1888

Lash the Captain to the Foremast

The horse was tied to the deck exposed to the winter elements.

The horse was tied to the deck exposed to the winter elements.

In a letter to the Editor of the local newspaper the ‘Twillingate Sun’  in January 1888 a resident of Little Bay wrote that he was infuriated with the practice of shipping animals on the deck of steamers in the winter season.

The person who penned the letter under the pseudonym “Humanity” was on the wharf in Little Bay, Twillingate waiting for the arrival of the local steamer the “Conscript.” The “Conscript” was used on the Newfoundland coastal mail service running from St. John’s to St. Anthony.  The run from St. John’s to Little Bay took a minimum of 72 hours.

The letter to The Editor read:

“Dear Sir – Allow me to call attention of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (if not yet organized) to the shameful sight which met the gaze of those who visited the steamer “Conscript” on her arrival this afternoon. A fine black horse, which had been shipped from St John’s, in a box on deck, exposed to the frost and dashing spray, had at length been overcome and lay perishing on the deck and probably ere this, is dead.”

The writer was so angered that the horse was left to stand tied on the deck of the steamer exposed to the freezing elements that he had a suggestion for the Captain of the Conscript. He wrote:

We would suggest that next trip, the shipper of the poor animal should be lashed to the foremast, and let take his chances at this inclement season, on a trip from St. John’s to Little Bay.

He continued:

However, we protest against such inhumanity as shipping animals on deck in winter season, as was the case the last two trips of Conscript.”

This incident and others like it stirred supporters like Daniel W. Prowse, a lawyer, politician, judge, historian, (Prowse is the author of A History of Newfoundland which is considered one of the most complete and meticulous colonial history books in existence) and others became active supporters for the establishment of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) which was established in Newfoundland in November 1888.

The first work of this newly formed Society was mostly amongst horses, issues like their transportation in the winter months and the hardship they endured from pulling heavy loads.

Recommended Archival Collection:  AtThe Rooms Provincial Archives: MG 593 is the SPCA Collection 1912 -1927. It consists of correspondence; complaint books, and investigation reports into complaints of cruelty.

Recommended Song: Tickle Cove Pond. Allan Doyle (Great Big Sea).

Recommended Web Site:  Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals –