In the midst of outcry from local animal rights activists, the Atlantic City Steel Pier has decided to cancel the return of the diving horses.
In the original show that ran from the 1920s to 1970s, a horse would walk up the steps of a 40-foot tower where a woman in a bathing suit was waiting. The woman would then mount the horse as it jumped into a pool of water below.
The show was set to make its return this summer and feature a horse and rider diving off a 30- to 40-foot platform into a 12-foot pool.
The announcement was immediately met by complaints from both animal rights activists and local residents who denounced the spectacle as animal cruelty.
“I think it’s disgusting and I think it’s cruelty to animals,” said Atlantic County SPCA President Nancy Beall. “It certainly can’t be safe for the animal. Judging by that, I’ll file charges immediately if they do this.”
On Tuesday, Steel Pier President Anthony Catanoso announced the Pier will not feature the diving horse act as previously planned. Catonoso claims the Pier wanted to focus on the positive and the diving horse act was only a small part of a much bigger plan for the A.C. landmark.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, released the following statement in response to the cancelation:
This is a merciful end to a colossally stupid idea. We are pleased so many citizens spoke up and urged that this spectacle never get off the ground. Horse diving has the potential to frighten and injure and kill horses, and it rightly belongs in Atlantic City’s history books.
Although the Diving Horse was the most attention-getting aspect, the Steel Pier is undergoing a $100 million renovation that will take 3 1/2 years and will make it a year-round attraction. Some work is already under way. This summer, there will be six new rides, several new games, beer gardens, new food and beverage kiosks and a resurfacing of the pier floor.